MARCO ISLAND — Mowing the lawn has become expensive on Marco Island. Abandoned homes, 18 of them in particular, have become a significant problem, requiring the city to assist in lawn maintenance.
The issue was brought before City Council at a workshop Monday afternoon.
In addition to lawn maintenance, other code violations, such as failing seawalls and missing pool barriers, have contributed to about $1.8 million in uncollected code violation fines on island. There are 18 homes which have accrued $1.3 million of those fines. They are still not in compliance.
The figure continues to grow at a rate of $5,500 daily.
“We need to find an action plan for these homes in bank foreclosure,” said Jose Granda, chairman of the Code Enforcement Board.
“First the banks plead ignorance then incompetence ... Neither one is an excuse,” he added.
Council voted to lower fines for Country Wide at their evening meeting Monday. Countrywide requested a reduction in fines for a still-failing seawall. The fine was more than $80,000 based on a $250 per day charge. Council voted to lower the fine to about $46,000 as long as the seawall is replaced within three months and the fine paid within 30 days. Agreement to lower the fine was based on the number of days the bank had taken ownership of the property and a promise from Country Wide to repair the seawall before property sale.
Granda proposed, due to increasing requests for reduced fines going before council, that the Code Enforcement Board hear those requests instead of council. He also requested consideration of hiring a collection agency, which would receive 50 percent of the fines once collected. Councilors, particularly Rob Popoff, opposed hiring a collection agency.
The growing problem of code violations occurring during the “transition time between the home owner walking away and banks taking ownership” is expected be addressed in more detail at a future council meeting.