Cracking down: Marco Island Code Enforcement Board signals new 'get tough' attitude

Daphnie Ricobene of City Attorney Burt Saunders' law firm discusses tightening code regulations. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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Daphnie Ricobene of City Attorney Burt Saunders' law firm discusses tightening code regulations. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Dick Adams is the newly elected CEB chairman. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Dick Adams is the newly elected CEB chairman. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

City Council Chairman Joe Batte tells city staff to crack down on code violators. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

City Council Chairman Joe Batte tells city staff to crack down on code violators. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Daphnie Ricobene of City Attorney Burt Saunders' law firm discusses tightening code regulations. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Daphnie Ricobene of City Attorney Burt Saunders' law firm discusses tightening code regulations. The Code Enforcement Board signaled a new get-tough attitude at their meeting Tuesday. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— Right now is probably not the best time to be brought up in front of Marco Island’s Code Enforcement Board, if you are a property owner who has failed to make required repairs, or especially if you are a landlord who has allowed your tenants to get out of hand.

At their meeting Tuesday afternoon in City Council chambers, the CEB indicated that they are preparing to take a harder stance toward violators, and “put some teeth” into code enforcement. For years, in the wake of the economic downturn, which saw multiple foreclosures and distress sales of real estate, the board has been willing in most cases to mitigate or waive fines imposed on delinquent property owners, particularly if the owners made efforts to correct the deficiencies, or at least showed the courtesy of showing up at board meetings to explain their situation. But after disposing of a pair of enforcement cases, and electing a new chairman and vice chairman for the group, the CEB devoted the bulk of their meeting to a workshop on how to curb code violations.

As City Attorney Burt Saunders looked on, his associate Daphnie Ricobene led the board through a discussion of possible changes to city ordinances, to make the Code Enforcement Board “more efficient,” she said. “We want Marco Island to have a higher quality of life,” and characterized the proposed changes as a “comprehensive, collected effort to make everybody in the city happier.” Everyone, that is, except code violators.

Code enforcement fines can be up to $250 a day for residences, with multiple fines for multiple offenses, and even higher for commercial establishments, in addition to administrative fees and reimbursement of any hard costs the city incurs to take care of problems when a property owner does not. These fines can, and have, mount into hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property. But they have been routinely “mitigated” at the request of owners, their attorneys or bank representatives, who often argue that a massive fine will cause a pending sale to fall through.

“It’s kind of a joke to start out fining people $250 a day, and then mitigate it down to $10,” said CEB member Debra Shanahan.

Board members indicated Tuesday they had been looking for guidance from the City Council in how best to enforce the city’s zoning code, and they got some, from two City Council members sitting in the audience. Councilman Larry Sacher went first, saying “we could probably have a parade of people in here who would tell you about what are called ‘renters from hell.’ We’ve got to do something to stop this.” He cited one rental home that had been the subject of over 100 complaints.

Council chairman Joe Batte was even more emphatic. Jabbing his finger in the direction of the code compliance officers present at the meeting, he essentially read the riot act to city staff, saying “they need to get to work, be pro-active, and have better tools.

“That’s your job, and I’m here to make sure it gets done,” said Batte. “We need to move a little toward enforcement.” He urged CEB members to “get your thoughts to Daphnie and Burt, and City Council will give you guidance,” presumably in a more formal fashion than the extemporaneous remarks Tuesday.

Batte also expressed concern that Code Compliance Supervisor Liz Carr, who was on vacation, was not at the meeting.

“I’m very disappointed the supervisor is not here today. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it still bothers me,” he said.

Board members agreed that landlords could, should and would be held accountable for the actions of their renters. Member Phil Kostelnik suggested that owners of rental property should be given a booklet with pertinent regulations to pass along to their tenants. “Maybe the rental agent should be responsible as well,” he added.

“We need more communication from residents,” said Ricobene. “Don’t wait until you’re fuming mad” to inform the city of violations.

The violations do not involve only rental property, said Batte. “We’ve talked 90 percent about rentals, but it’s not just about transients. This is about people who violate and ignore our laws.”

Dick Adams was elected by the CEB as their new chairman, his second time in the position, stepping up from vice chair. The vice chairman slot was filled by Kostelnik.

Things are going to change, said new CEB member Paul Kampmeyer. “I can’t come in with a box of Kleenes, and a tear in my eye, and get a $10 fine.”

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Comments » 33

marco97 writes:

As a landlord one major problem is if the police visit my property because of a noise complaint I am not notified. The police were called to my annual property rental because of a complaint. My neighbor next door called me and told me the police had been there twice in one week and the tenants were having party's at all hours. If he had not called me I would have no idea there was a problem. As the owner of the property the police should let me know when there is a problem. I can't fix it if the police don't tell me about it.

laslic writes:

Yeah - you want to treat me like a criminal if I park across the sidewalk in front of MY house!! I'm gonna rent my house to a bunch of boys from da 'hood. Then Code enforcement will target it because of calls from whining neighbors.

MrBreeze writes:

This is just the restart of the teardown theory. I warned you people about this some years ago when the New bridge was coming. Wake up when they use the word "teeth" that means dollars and power. Once your property has been targeted you will sell wait and see. If your old Deltona house is in the way watch out someone has better plans for it than you do. This is the start of a rolling rock.

"We want Marco Island to have a higher quality of life" That means if you are in a old home less than 1 million you are not high quality and time to move. This will get interesting.

Brisla writes:

Small minds with power.

WMissow writes:

By no doubt, owners of rental property should be responsible to advise the renters of rules of code compliance, which the renters should sign.

We live in a residential community not in some two bit boarding house the way some renters behave. They should be held responsible and fined for violations because they have, hopefully, signed the code violation document.

Too bad if some owners feel that this is too much to do. If they wish to rent the property then they should do the right thing for the neighbors and if they do not then they too should be fined for violations.

Real estate rental agents should have these documents ready to be signed by renters and they too should be held responsible if the renters do not receive and sign them.

A neighbor should not have to put up with the inconsideration some owners partake in when renting their properties.

lauralbi1 writes:

I have a great place for the CEB to start !! They should issue a Citation to the City of Marco Island for storing a mess of lights, concrete blocks and ugly light poles on OUR City Park property. Or, since it is on Public Property, maybe we should just have someone take it away.

This is a nuisance to the entire City. When the Veterans have an event it just spoils the whole ambiance.
Ed Issler

WMissow writes:

Ed,

Why should they care it's not in their neighbor's yard!

RayNetherwood writes:

It's kind of ironic, two of the island's worst and dangerous side walks, on terms of upkeep and usability are where? 1. On Winterberry in front of the Collier County tax collector's building, and 2. On the corner of San Marco and Bald Eagle where the cross walk button is located on a pole, in a swale, far from the sidewalk. Enforcement on others is great, sidewalks should be passable without having to duck branches or being forced into the grass by overgrown shrubs ..... but, it would be nice if the "Enforcers" could set a good example.

captnjimbo writes:

One more thing while they are at it. I went on a mission to photograph nature on Marco. It was difficult to find scenes that were free of one traffic sign or another...it seems only a few years ago that we were focused on natural beauty...but we have had sign creep. Place is starting to look like Cape Coral. That is our city's doing...not individuals.

MrBreeze writes:

The only difference Captn is that they use the term "high quality of life" which means they know what is better for you.

Marcobiker I agree, that is part of my bike route when I am on the island. I try to avoid that intersection in the mornings as I feel it is dangerous. For a City that wants to be pedestrian friendly that is a bad crossing.

This "teeth" with oridance was tried in my hometown a fews years back. It made lawyers money but after all the real problems were uncovered the City backed down after seeing they were just as guilty.

This picture of the City Councillor pointing is not the signal I want to see as a citizen of Marco Island. I did not sign up to live under fear and terror of the "Code Police" one day they want to work with the homeowner the next day the finger is out pointing and fines of 250.00 are threatened. This sends a mixed signal.

Where is the supervisor asked the councillor? Is this not the person who has been provided many different rolls in the City over the years?
Can someone answer that question. I am not clear on that but I think she was in charge of dealing with Foreclosed/BankOwned properties?

How is such a meeting conducted without the supervisor present?

WMissow writes:

McBreeze,

Ans. With smoke and mirrors!

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot writes:

I think America should adopt the concept behind the new movie "The Purge" http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1893...

This way these old folks with nothing better to do would learn that trying to tell other people what to do and how to live is not their place. The same could be said for most of .gov I suppose?

ajm3s writes:

in response to lauralbi1:

I have a great place for the CEB to start !! They should issue a Citation to the City of Marco Island for storing a mess of lights, concrete blocks and ugly light poles on OUR City Park property. Or, since it is on Public Property, maybe we should just have someone take it away.

This is a nuisance to the entire City. When the Veterans have an event it just spoils the whole ambiance.
Ed Issler

Please include the flagpole that is "lying in state" at Plummer Park. This is the damaged flagpole that was removed from Collier Blvd after being hit by a passing vehicle.

In the city's collective wisdom, it was decided as the city was dragging the damaged pole to send it to Plummer Park. Quite a decision given the length of time is lies in state.

This is so simple an issue to resolve that it is still lying in state for many months. This is PURE INCOMPENTENCY!!!!!!!!! So simple to resolve: remove it and store in a proper facility or install it if that is the intent.

IT IS NOT TO BE STORED IN A RIGHT OF WAY!

This is pure bulldirt! And we want this city to provide more services?

God help us all! The city is the worst violator of quality of life issues on this island!

God this pisses me off!

Sorry Folks!

Brisla writes:

"Batte also expressed concern that Code Compliance Supervisor Liz Carr, who was on vacation, was not at the meeting.

“I’m very disappointed the supervisor is not here today. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it still bothers me,” he said."
------
Hey, Einstein - she was on vacation! I'm sure it was planned in advance! It was you and your prescient colleagues who decided to have your grandiose CEB meeting when she wasn't going to be there. Great idea!

mhs513 writes:

in response to MrBreeze:

This is just the restart of the teardown theory. I warned you people about this some years ago when the New bridge was coming. Wake up when they use the word "teeth" that means dollars and power. Once your property has been targeted you will sell wait and see. If your old Deltona house is in the way watch out someone has better plans for it than you do. This is the start of a rolling rock.

"We want Marco Island to have a higher quality of life" That means if you are in a old home less than 1 million you are not high quality and time to move. This will get interesting.

I agree. City buttholes.

mhs513 writes:

in response to RayNetherwood:

It's kind of ironic, two of the island's worst and dangerous side walks, on terms of upkeep and usability are where? 1. On Winterberry in front of the Collier County tax collector's building, and 2. On the corner of San Marco and Bald Eagle where the cross walk button is located on a pole, in a swale, far from the sidewalk. Enforcement on others is great, sidewalks should be passable without having to duck branches or being forced into the grass by overgrown shrubs ..... but, it would be nice if the "Enforcers" could set a good example.

One of the great issues for cityhood was to put sidewalks on every street in front of every property, even empty lots. The great city was going to do it for you if you didn't do it yourself, then bill you for the work. Never happened.

RayPray writes:

in response to MrBreeze:

This is just the restart of the teardown theory. I warned you people about this some years ago when the New bridge was coming. Wake up when they use the word "teeth" that means dollars and power. Once your property has been targeted you will sell wait and see. If your old Deltona house is in the way watch out someone has better plans for it than you do. This is the start of a rolling rock.

"We want Marco Island to have a higher quality of life" That means if you are in a old home less than 1 million you are not high quality and time to move. This will get interesting.

Some of our friendly local REALTORS are going around now to older homes and telling their owners that they are are working closely with the Code Enforcers, and hinting that, unless the owner chooses to list their home with the realtor, they will become target for a barrage of expensive charges and fines.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Speaking of Realtors, let us not forget “Those Realtors” who profited greatly during the “BOOM YEARS”, 2002 to 2009, and whose Clients are still so deep under water, they will never recover their losses.

And then there are “Those Other Realtors” who profited from the Mortgage Fraud scams, are still walking around, left dozens of homes abandoned, that are being fined by Code Enforcement.

MrBreeze writes:

MHS513&Ray, I told you this would happen. I have seen this before. There is always the link between Municipal and the Realtors. The Realtor is "on scene" during this process and ultimately the owner throws in the towel and leaves.

The lull and compassion of the Code Board was all a farse until the market picked back up and the run out of town can begin. Most people will sell as they do not want the fight or the expense to fight.

As for me, My home may be the very last Deltona standing after this process.

Was not the Code Supervisor the Ex-Police chiefs wife? Can someone answer that question?

WMissow writes:

Yes, 26 everyone involved in the Great ACORN plan of the late 1990's from people who received 120% of the price of a home who could not afford the mortgage payments from day one to the extreme excesses of this past mid decade.

Nobody forced anyone to purchase a home that was well beyond their ability to pay. Everyone thought it was a "great deal" when it was happening. Too bad the great tree that ACORN produced was rotten from day one any many people suffered from it.

I guess when it is too good to be true, the uneducated jump to be first in line and are always the ones hurt.

Everyone took advantage of the fruits from ACORN, the buyers, the sellers, oh yes there were those sellers who made huge amounts of cash, the banks for funding outrageous deals, the realtors who rode the wave to the top. Remember nobody was forced to pay the prices they did.

This has happened many times from the tulips of Holland to today. Nothing new and it will surely happen again in the future.

MrBreeze writes:

ajm3s Like I said this happened in my hometown a few years back before the bust. They were ticketing folks for having loose gutters or lack of landscaping which meant blight. All the while City properties were bigger offenders than anyone. The problem is the "teeth" of oridinance. When the judge hears the case he/she must interpet the oridinance by the written law and that is where they get you. If the Judge is pro-city you loose, if the judge stands for the people you win as it is thrown out. That is why the "teeth" meaning "more definable law" that cannot be thrown out so the judge has no leeway to side with the homeowner. Pay attention people this is the dangerous part. That word "teeth" is used all over the country and there are Law firms that specialize in setting up Citys for just this type of scenario. Teeth= Fines and Court= Frustration= Financial hardship= Sell property. Game over.

marcofriend writes:

in response to MrBreeze:

MHS513&Ray, I told you this would happen. I have seen this before. There is always the link between Municipal and the Realtors. The Realtor is "on scene" during this process and ultimately the owner throws in the towel and leaves.

The lull and compassion of the Code Board was all a farse until the market picked back up and the run out of town can begin. Most people will sell as they do not want the fight or the expense to fight.

As for me, My home may be the very last Deltona standing after this process.

Was not the Code Supervisor the Ex-Police chiefs wife? Can someone answer that question?

Yes, Liz Carr is Thom Carr's wife and is Supervisor of Code Compliance.

26yearsonmarco writes:

WMissow:

“I guess when it is too good to be true, the uneducated jump to be first in line and are always the ones hurt.”

Your statement above is true, and is the reason Buyers and Sellers rely on Realtors licensed by the State, to protect their interests, because they believe the Realtors have a Fiduciary responsibility to do so, as defined below.

“An individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another's benefit.”

Unfortunately, in some cases, the need, and in others, the greed, win over the Rule every time.

In other parts of the World, Germany for example, Realtors work on salary, not commission, which eliminates the Greed Factor, and increases incentive to do the right thing, or be fired.

MrBreeze writes:

I would have saw that as a Huge conflict of interest to allow that to happen. That is just plain wrong as Code Enforcement can actually be part of Law Enforcement when writing violations.
Some City's Code Enforcement is actually part of the Police Department while others are part of the Building Department.

Most have switched to the Police Department as they have moved Ordinance Violations to a crime. As in 500.00 fines and or jail time.

mrz333 writes:

Landlords of these party hardy houses seem to forget they're breaking state law by renting at all. Guess they think their money makes them above the very laws they accepted when they purchased their property. If you can't keep track of your own property then either sell it or hire someone to manage it for you! Your business interests lower the quality of life for all residents. People who outright ignore the rules for their own benefit should be fined. Repeat offenders should be fined in a big way. I like the rules - I accepted the rules - I want them enforced!

mrz333 writes:

BTW! Stop crying and be responsible! You sound like a bunch of 5 year olds with wallets bigger than their brains!

LadueVGilleo writes:

in response to RayPray:

Some of our friendly local REALTORS are going around now to older homes and telling their owners that they are are working closely with the Code Enforcers, and hinting that, unless the owner chooses to list their home with the realtor, they will become target for a barrage of expensive charges and fines.

Please provide us with the source of your information.

WMissow writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

WMissow:

“I guess when it is too good to be true, the uneducated jump to be first in line and are always the ones hurt.”

Your statement above is true, and is the reason Buyers and Sellers rely on Realtors licensed by the State, to protect their interests, because they believe the Realtors have a Fiduciary responsibility to do so, as defined below.

“An individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another's benefit.”

Unfortunately, in some cases, the need, and in others, the greed, win over the Rule every time.

In other parts of the World, Germany for example, Realtors work on salary, not commission, which eliminates the Greed Factor, and increases incentive to do the right thing, or be fired.

26,

Please do not be too sure that Realtor's have much of a fiduciary responsibility. If they do, it is limited. What a buyer or seller believes about Realtors may not be that accurate.

The Realtors are limited to what the seller tells them and possibly some research. Their verification of information is minimal. If the seller gives them incomplete or incorrect information on a listing, there is very little you can do to the Realtor and in many cases, very little you can do to the potential seller. This is even if you go to contract. Contracts are broken all of the time for some missed bit of information.

That is why you need a reputable title company or lawyer to VERIFY everything before you go to closing.

WizeOlMarco writes:

All a financially strapped property owner has to do is bring a list of the last few years City-reduced fees/fines to their Code Enforcement meeting and ask for the same treatment. A better City approach would be to officially reset the fees/fines to levels commensurate with their recent practice and enforce to the full extent of the law. The City has set the precedent, residents live with it.

MrBreeze writes:

mrz333 I am not even speaking about rental houses. I believe that you should not be able to rent at all. I have owned my home over 14 years and never rented it once. It is my home I want it that way. I could rent I suppose and make income but I purchased it to enjoy and to know it is just the same as I left it when I return.

I am talking about the trend to rebuild the island that was going on before the bust. I saw that as a very limited time for owners like myself who have a modest home bothering nobody but not fitting the trends of the island. This trend will return as new construction is going on the island. Old will be out replaced with new.

WMissow writes:

in response to mrz333:

Landlords of these party hardy houses seem to forget they're breaking state law by renting at all. Guess they think their money makes them above the very laws they accepted when they purchased their property. If you can't keep track of your own property then either sell it or hire someone to manage it for you! Your business interests lower the quality of life for all residents. People who outright ignore the rules for their own benefit should be fined. Repeat offenders should be fined in a big way. I like the rules - I accepted the rules - I want them enforced!

Mrz333,

You are absolutely correct. I am sick and tired of a nearby property being rented to people who have no respect for anyone near them.

If I remember our former city councilor Popoff wanted to allow home rentals to many more people than the driveway or garage could handle for them. These people parked all over the swales and sidewalks and little was done by the city to have these people clean up their act.

It is about time that the city gets serious about these rental homes and acts to protect the neighbors who suffer while their inconsiderate neighbor makes a profit.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to WMissow:

26,

Please do not be too sure that Realtor's have much of a fiduciary responsibility. If they do, it is limited. What a buyer or seller believes about Realtors may not be that accurate.

The Realtors are limited to what the seller tells them and possibly some research. Their verification of information is minimal. If the seller gives them incomplete or incorrect information on a listing, there is very little you can do to the Realtor and in many cases, very little you can do to the potential seller. This is even if you go to contract. Contracts are broken all of the time for some missed bit of information.

That is why you need a reputable title company or lawyer to VERIFY everything before you go to closing.

Fiduciary and Reputable are two words quickly forgotten when the word Greed supersedes them.

I have been following the attached Blog for years, and you will be amazed how many Professionals, who claim to be Reputable, place money first.

http://mortgagefraudblog.com/

WMissow writes:

No doubt about that! I have come into contact with a couple of those "reputable" brokers. They always claim ignorance, "duhh, I didn't know" as the justification for their questionable actions.

Too bad the courts have let them get away with this all too often.

I do have to say although there are Realtors who are just show-ers. Many of the Realtors have to take the lousy rap for those you are talking about.

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