JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A judge has ordered for the suspension of weddings held at a lavish San Marco mansion until the city’s lawsuit against the owner can go to trial.
The judge's order granting the temporary injunction comes eight months after an Action News Jax Investigation exposed that the so-called Tuscan River Estate was illegally operating as an event venue and vacation rental.
The attorney representing the city calls the events "unlawful and remarkably dangerous" because the mansion does not meet the fire codes required to host those events.
Until trial, the judge ruled Tuscan River Estate can still rent out the property as long as it’s for seven days or more; any party there cannot have more than 50 guests.
“The city put codes in place on purpose. Otherwise, we could have a cattle ranch across the street,” neighbor Bonnie Biats said. “I use the analogy of David and Goliath. We took down Goliath.”
The judge will make an exception for two weddings within the next month, as long as Tuscan River Estate hires Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department safety officers to do a fire watch inside the building and a JSO officer to monitor Kelnepa Drive.
“I was surprised that he granted two more events to be held. That was disappointing on our part, but in the long run it’s going to be better,” said neighbor Allan Biats, who went to Wednesday’s hearing.
He said Tuscan River Estate property manager Michael Johnigean did not show up to the hearing.
Johnigean would not agree to an interview with Action News Jax on Friday.
“I want to thank the city of Jacksonville for working with the Tuscan River Estate in putting together a compromise that works for both parties. We are very pleased with the outcome,” Johnigean told Action News Jax in a text message.
Johnigean did not respond to our question about his previous claims that former Latitude 360 CEO Brent Brown is not involved with the business.
After our investigations exposed Brown’s employees’ paychecks bounced and he owes millions in unpaid taxes and court judgements, Brown sold the mansion to an LLC.
A January lease instructs guests to call Brown’s wife Toni or mother Sheri during their stay.