MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s top administrator says a kinder, gentler approach to code enforcement is working. Nearly a year ago, at the behest of city manager Jim Riviere, the name of the code enforcement department was changed to “code compliance” and was placed under the authority of the Marco Island Police Department.
On Tuesday, Riviere told board members that during the current fiscal year which began in October, 2010, code compliance officers have opened a total of 615 cases. However, Riviere stated, all but 10 cases have been closed.
Riviere noted that a program which allows the city to clean up blighted properties, often the result of foreclosures, is not intended as a money-maker for the city. Under the program, the city takes over improvements such as yard care, drainage, and pool clean-up, then a lien is placed on the property. The amount spent by the city is recouped when the property changes hands or is sold.
“Make no mistake, code compliance is a police action,” Rivere told board members, adding that not all code enforcement members supported his approach, with some believing the city was being too “soft” on violators.
“My view, and I hope it’s not myopic, is that it looks a lot better under this scheme that it did before.”
Newly-elected board chairman Lou Prigge said he sees the work of compliance officers first hand through his lawn mowing business.
“I know they’re reaching out and citing people,” he said, noting that he has even received a code violation letter. “I think what you’re doing is right.”
Sale of half finished home pending
An unfinished house that has been an eyesore for nearly three years is about to get a new lease. Code violation officials first cited Diana Borgo and her husband, Peter, for their unfinished home on San Marco Road in August, 2008. The couple claimed they had been victims of an unscrupulous builder and a business that went bankrupt. After several permit extensions to finish the build-out and the death of Peter Borgo, city officials finally ordered the demolition of the property by May 30, or Diana Borgo would face $100 a day fine for non-compliance.
At Tuesday’s meeting, a representative for the widow said she is close to selling the property to a New Jersey man who plans to finish construction of the home. A deposit amount is already in escrow, and the deal is expected to close in mid July.
Robert Garraty, a real estate agent who represents the potential buyer requested that board members grant a 180 day extension for the renewal of permits and the start of construction.
“I think they (the Borgos) fell into a bad situation,” said board member Carol Glassman. “I think we should give a lot of thought to what she’s been through.”
After a brief discussion, and in light of the amount of time the property has already remained unfinished, board members unanimously agreed on a 90 day permit extension. The finished home could be completed sometime this fall.