A packed community meeting about a Buckhead mansion rented for “illegal” nightclub-style parties had a big twist ending, with an attendee claiming to be the property’s new owner and pledging that commercialized events there would end.
The surprise claim late in the July 24 meeting was news to top city officials and raised more questions than answers about the future of the palatial estate at 4499 Garmon Road N.W., which music star Kenny Rogers once called home. The woman who says she’s the new owner—she asked to be identified only by her first name, Tasia—said in an interview that the sale of the mansion, whose owners of record have a complicated financial and legal history, has yet to close. And the city’s top building official said a promoter was still advertising a sold-out, no-refunds party at the property for Aug. 17.
Whatever happens at the home near the Buckhead/Sandy Springs border, city officials are concerned about coping with the arrival of the national trend of renting mansions for parties staged by professional promoters. Atlanta City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit said he’s working on legislation to “tighten the screws” on such parties.
“It’s illegal. It’s impacting our neighborhood, and we’re going to stop it,” Matzigkeit told roughly 100 residents at the July 24 meeting, held at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church.
Commercial party venues are already illegal in residential areas, but complicated ownership issues have made enforcement and citations a problem on Garmon Road, officials said. For many residents, that wasn’t good enough, as they complained of at least 23 parties in the past seven months, creating noise and traffic with up to 300 guests and sometimes with alcohol service. Promoters even delivered guests by helicopter and displayed an AR-15-style rifle on social media as security, residents say, citing videos and social media posts. A Fourth of July party, where hit rapper Fabolous was among the hosts, was criticized as especially loud and disturbing.
Meanwhile, city officials are proactively warning promoters away from the Garmon mansion and already got one party relocated to a Buckhead commercial venue.
Tasia said she accepted “full responsibility” for the Fourth of July party and claimed any ticketing or advertising was done by friends without her knowledge. But she also complained of police “harassment” and unequal treatment, and a friend who helped organize that party suggested that race played a role in neighbors’ complaints. They identified themselves and spoke at the meeting only after another attendee got very close to them and repeatedly took photos of them, despite their objections.
“Honestly, we felt like we were being attacked for being African-American,” said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous in an interview, referring to neighborhood complaints of strippers and “vice” that he said were inaccurate. He said social media images of women at a party were misinterpreted as strippers “just because they were black and in bathing suits.” He said the July 4 party was primarily a fundraiser that brought in $5,000 for a Morehouse College alumni group.
One neighbor said he lives directly across the street from the mansion and has experienced a couple of disruptive parties, but nowhere near the 23 cited by Sally Riker, president of the Mt. Paran-Northside Citizens Association, in the meeting’s opening remarks.
Much of the concern expressed by neighbors is that the parties would grow and possibly create serious crime.
“We’re not bad people. We just don’t want this going on in our neighborhood,” said one resident, who complained that the city had successfully issued only one citation so far, reportedly to a security guard working the July 4 party.
Another resident, speaking several days before the meeting, said that when someone buys a ticket to a party at a house, “We don’t know if [they’re] a sex offender or if [they] have a felony on [their] record.”
Added the resident, “Everybody’s saying, ‘Why did Kenny Rogers have to move?’”
Party mansion trend
Dealing with the new party-mansion trend is a challenge for city officials, which is partly why so many of them showed up for the community meeting. They include Councilmembers Matzigkeit and Matt Westmoreland; Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Glazier and Buckhead district commander Maj. Barry Shaw; Gregory Pace, the interim director of the Office of Buildings; and Erika Smith, the city prosecutor handling the one citation currently in court and others that may be delivered.
National media reports show that renting mansions for ticketed parties and concerts is a booming business, partly as mansion-owners may be cash-strapped and partly due to cities cracking down on nightclubs and sending nightlife underground. Short-term rental sites like Airbnb.com are one place party mansions can be found, including one that drew similar controversy on Buckhead’s Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in 2016.
But Atlanta is also seeing specialty sites, such as MansionHouseAtlanta.com, where the “Garmon Mansion” was rented until recently.
Glazier said it’s a case of culture outpacing policy and that police often lack the tools to stop such parties, in part because it’s hard to find the owner. He said that one promoter staging parties at 4499 Garmon was based in Baltimore, Md., with no local ties. So APD is “trying to go after these promoters and make it uncomfortable for them to do business” in Buckhead, he said.
Pace said the city is monitoring social media and warning promoters away from the mansion under threat of citations, which carry a maximum penalty of $1,000 and six months in jail. Matzigkeit said the city issued cease-and-desist letters in May to the property owner and other “agents” involved in the parties.
Glazier indicated that APD is considering sending undercover officers into such parties. However, one thing police won’t do, said Shaw, is “storm the castle” and raid a mansion for Instagram photos of AR-15s or alleged marijuana odors, as some residents have urged. Such guns are legal, and city policy is to “de-emphasize” pot arrests, he noted.
The basic enforcement effort in this type of case is citing the property owner. But, Pace said, that is not simple in this case. And Tasia’s ownership claim complicates it further.
The Garmon mansion is over 15,000 square feet in size, with six bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, according to Fulton County online property records. It sits on a 5-acre walled site.
In 2006, Rogers sold the mansion to Adeyinka “Yinka” Adesokan and Paula Nelson, who remain the owners listed in Fulton online property records as of July 24. According to media reports and court documents, the couple’s dermatology business got into legal trouble with the federal and state governments, reaching settlements on allegations of improper billing in 2015 and 2016 without admitting wrongdoing; and Adesokan declared bankruptcy. Pace said he has spoken to Adesokan recently and that the couple no longer lives in the house and is apparently “out of the country,” making it impossible to serve a citation. Pace said Adesokan claimed to be renting the property to someone under an oral agreement.
The Reporter found that listed phone numbers for Adesokan and Nelson were disconnected.
Tasia said she recently moved into the house, though she also said the sale is not closed. She declined to identify who she is working with to broker the sale, saying her lawyer advised her not to discuss it. Asked where she lived before moving into the mansion, she said she has been “back and forth” between South Carolina and Atlanta. She said she had not rented the property and that there was not a tenant in the house.
Pace said he spoke to Adesokan as recently as the week of July 15, as well as on July 4, and that Adesokan had not mentioned any sale of the property.
Tasia said she was unaware of many of the parties listed at the property, except the Fourth of July bash: “I take full responsibility for that,” she told the meeting attendees. Any other listings would be removed, she said.
“There’s nothing coming, no events,” said her event-organizing friend.
However, Tasia also complained that another resident recently had “50 cars” parked on the street for a party without a similar crackdown, and that she had police “harassment” and “cops following me”—which Shaw later denied. Calling the complaints “upsetting,” she said, “I’ve not had one person come to the house” to speak with her directly, which led several other attendees to say they had no way of knowing she was there.
In an interview, Tasia indicated she was aware of some complaints and arranged the Fourth of July party to mitigate them with such tactics as busing guests in from elsewhere—her friend said it was not from a strip club lot, as some neighbors allege, though where exactly is unclear. But some neighbors saw such moves as just increasing the size of the party. “It’s obviously just frustrating,” Tasia said.
Matzigkeit thanked Tasia for attending, and after the meeting, she spoke briefly with the councilmember and Pace.