MARCO ISLAND — “NOTICE: This property has been determined to be vacant/abandoned.”
Even the official warning sign posted on the home’s front door is dilapidated, torn and water stained, with the blue tape peeling off.
The house at 923 North Barfield Drive, said Marco’s Community Services Director Bryan Milk, under whose jurisdiction code compliance falls, has a host of structural and safety issues, where the only reasonable solution is to level it.
“We’re looking to pursue demolition of this house,” Milk told the city’s Code Enforcement Board at its meeting Tuesday afternoon in the City Council chambers.
From the foundation to the roof, the seawall of the waterfront property, collapsing ceilings, and a swimming pool covered over with a grid of planks and steel mesh, the home is too far gone to save. The value of the property, surrounded by million-dollar homes, is only $17,000 according to Collier County, Milk told the board.
Before demolition through the city can proceed, he said, “you have to make a finding” to that effect, which will be transmitted to the property’s owner.
“We’re on record with Mrs. Flores that we intend to demo the house. She’s elderly, and there’s a language barrier,” he said of the absentee owner. “She may be able to demo it herself.” There is a history with the property, he said, of previous violations and fines levied.
In response to a question from board member and former chairman Lou Prigge, Milk said yes, the home does represent a safety hazard.
This is the normal fare for the Island’s Code Enforcement Board, dealing with the aftermath of shattered dreams and schemes gone wrong, with the mess left behind by those who cannot or will not comply with the city’s rules. The city’s costs, including demolition and cleanup, along with fines levied, will become a lien against the real estate, so in time the taxpayers will get their money back.
Vice Chairman Phil Kostelnik presided at Tuesday’s meeting, in the absence of Chairman Dick Adams, and listened to a staff report requested by Adams from Code Compliance Supervisor Liz Carr.
Throughout July, said Carr, the department fielded 329 phone calls, 28 walk-in complaints, and 421 emails, although, she said, not all the emails represented complaints. Code Compliance closed 227 cases, and opened 285 more.
Of the cases opened, fully 140 involve weeds and unmown lots, a natural result of the long, hot — and wet — summer.
In a related issue, Carr said that those who do clear their property, generating yard waste, are obstructing city rights of way, putting the trash out on the swale before the appropriate time for scheduled pickup.
“How soon is too soon?” asked board member Rony Joel. Yard waste, said Carr, cannot be placed out until 6 p.m. Wednesday for Thursday pickup.
“It’s an education issue, for property owners to communicate to their landscapers,” she said. “They can’t put that stuff out — they need to take it with them when they leave.”
In addition, the CEB dealt with three cases of “failure to connect,” homeowners who did not make and pay for the required tap into the city’s sewer system. These have been a staple of CEB meetings, but Carr indicated the steady drip of sewage cases is winding down, as the system goes online islandwide and noncomplying properties are dealt with.
The property at 1909 Sheffield Drive, which was finally foreclosed on by the lender, had necessary repairs made, Carr reported, but the financial institution, Renaissance Home Equity, neglected to obtain a permit before fixing an unsafe stairway. In all these cases, the standard for fines of $250 per day after a 30-day waiting period, plus a $250 administrative fee, plus any hard costs incurred by the city, were imposed.
Board member Debra Shanahan reported taking Carr up on her suggestion of a “ride along.” Shanahan spent a morning touring with Code Compliance Officer Patrick Hayman, and said she was impressed by his thoroughness, encyclopedic knowledge of city codes, and soft-spoken approach to the position.
The CEB will meet again on Sept. 10.
“Pat’s very good talking with people in violation,” said Shanahan, plans his route to save fuel, and dealt as efficiently as possible with the unwieldy software used by the department, which necessitates multiple entry of the same data.
The CEB will meet again on Sept. 10.