Marco Island Code Board deals with building safety, sewer cases

Chairman Dick Adams, left, speaks with Code Enforcement Board member Lou Prigge. The board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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Chairman Dick Adams, left, speaks with Code Enforcement Board member Lou Prigge. The board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

New code compliance officer Al Greco is welcomed by board member Debra Shanahan. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

New code compliance officer Al Greco is welcomed by board member Debra Shanahan. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— The derelict house at 923 North Barfield Drive moved closer to its date with a wrecking ball at Tuesday’s Code Enforcement Board meeting, but City Attorney Burt Saunders cautioned the board they need to proceed by the book, crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.

“You should not even be walking into that house without wearing a mask” was the takeaway from a mold inspection conducted on the property, planning and zoning technician Lina Upham testified. In addition, building inspectors declared the home to be “very unsafe,” with two estimates to bring it up to code coming in at $161,000 and $228,000, said Upham.

With the value of the structure, built on a waterfront lot, only $17,000, that would mean spending 10 times what the house is worth to fix it, while the waterfront lot where it sits has value, once it no longer hosts the neighborhood eyesore. While all present agreed on the need to remove the house, the city attorney warned of potential liability to the city for moving too quickly.

City Attorney Burt Saunders goes over the Sunshine Law requirements. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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City Attorney Burt Saunders goes over the Sunshine Law requirements. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Planning and zoning technician Lina Upham briefs the board. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Planning and zoning technician Lina Upham briefs the board. Marco Island's Code Enforcement Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

“When the city elects to demolish a building, obviously that’s a pretty drastic remedy,” said Saunders. Numerous court cases, he said, have found municipalities and local government entities liable for an unlawful taking when privately owned structures had been razed without following all proper steps. “When the courts have ruled there wasn’t sufficient due process, the cities have been ordered to pay damages.”

“We’re going to bring this back to the Code Board for a hearing, to make sure there is sufficient justification” for demolition, said Saunders.

The owner, Caridad Flores, “now lives in Miami. She’s elderly,” said code compliance supervisor Liz Carr. “She can’t even afford to do the demolition. She definitely doesn’t have money to rehab the location.”

At the meeting’s outset, Chairman Dick Adams asked what had happened to two cases, both against companies owned by contractor Duane Thomas, which had disappeared off the agenda.

“I’d like to know why they were taken off the agenda, because any item that’s posted on the agenda must by heard by the Code Board at that day’s hearing,” he said. Carr said the items were in the hands of the department’s director and the City Attorney, and Code Compliance staff was not ready to proceed.

The meeting included several of the typical “failure to connect” sewer line cases. One was removed due to a bankruptcy, which Carr said could take as long as a year, and two were given the standard order to connect within 30 days, or pay a fine of $250 per day starting the 31st day, plus an administrative fee of $250.

One case, due to the financial and medical situation of the residents, Michael and Michele Sullivan of South Heathwood Drive, was brought back for a rehearing.

“We have reached an agreement,” said Upham, including a plumbing contractor to connect the home to the sewer system, and a payment plan for the Sullivans. “We have everything in writing and plumbing permits are being pulled in as we speak.” The monthly payments, including eight percent interest, will be added to the Sullivans’ utility bills, she said.

Due to the extenuating circumstances, in particular medical hardship, Carr recommended waiving the $250 administrative fee. Saunders said “the cleanest way to do that is to rescind the order of the board in its entirety,” which is what was done.

City Council members Larry Sacher and Bob Brown sat in on the meeting, which could have given the council some useful guidance in how to conduct business briskly, running just 35 minutes from the opening gavel to a motion for adjournment. The CEB is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 8.

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Comments » 8

laslic writes:

Yes Mr Adams, you're right to question why Duane Thomas was not prosecuted - think he is above the law. Now that's selective enforcement by the City. Hope that's not the end of it....

WMissow writes:

Is that the same Duane Thomas that had the audacity to run for City Council?

ajm3s writes:

The Marco Island Code Department should review the Code of Ordinance, specifically ARTICLE II. - NUISANCE, LITTER, WEED, PLANT AND RIGHT-OF-WAY CONTROL.

Interestingly, I believe the City of Marco Island is not compliant with the nuisance code as it applies to swales. Typically most public roadside swales act as conveyance zones for road surface draining. However, the city has chosen to use the swale at Plummber Park on Piedmont Circle as a depository for a damaged flagpole, it removed from the entrance to this island last season.

I would now consider this to be a public nuisance and falls under the guidelines and definitions in the aforementioned Code of Ordinances as abandoned property.

http://library.municode.com/index.asp...

"Abandoned property means any wrecked, inoperative, unregistered, derelict or partially dismantled property having little, if any, value other than nominal salvage value, which has been left unattended and unprotected from the elements, which shall include but not be limited to motor vehicles, trailers, boats, machinery, appliances, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, construction materials and/or equipment, plumbing fixtures, furniture, and any other similar article."

What recourse do citizens have when the city disregards the safety of its citizens in use of public property for storage.

How does one begin the process of petitioning the city to maintain safety standards and regulate itself.

I have a suggestion: Review the Right-of-Way (ROW) Standards that was brought before the Planning Board in April of 2012. Interestingly, all the revisions recommended by Mr. Pinter were to limit the citizens from specific uses....well I STRONGLY suggest the amendments limit the City of Marco Island from using ROW's as staging areas without proper safety warning or caution tape...as well as a term limit as to the amount of time damaged material can be left in a ROW.....

Why is so simple a request met with so much resistance? Perhaps the city is not receiving emails from citizens again.....software glitch?

May I request another suggestion: simply enter your comments on newsletter sites; they are posted in real time for all to see, no editorial review.

ajm3s writes:

"City Council members Larry Sacher and Bob Brown sat in on the meeting, which could have given the council some useful guidance in how to conduct business briskly, running just 35 minutes from the opening gavel to a motion for adjournment."

Interesting comment! But I believe the meeting was brief because an important item was REMOVED from the agenda to which Mr. Adams questioned the city:

“I’d like to know why they were taken off the agenda, because any item that’s posted on the agenda must by heard by the Code Board at that day’s hearing”

The city response from Ms. Carr as written in this article: "the items were in the hands of the department’s director and the City Attorney, and Code Compliance staff was not ready to proceed"

Sounds like it was not ready for public viewing, requiring more backroom non-transparent discussions....perhaps something the current council is avoiding by having lengthy open public discussions and public comments.

Or is it something else, akin to a one hour syndicated "Price is Right" game show hosted by...?

sachmo writes:

Code Compliance Officer Carr misspoke at the meeting regarding Mr. Thomas and the complaints filed against him. The following morning she sent an e-mail to Code Board members explaining that the real reason the items were removed from the Agenda is that Mr. Thomas WAS IN COMPLIANCE. This was not reported bt THE EAGLE.

Larry Sacher, City Councilor

26yearsonmarco writes:

Larry,

"Code Compliance Officer Carr misspoke at the meeting regarding Mr. Thomas and the complaints filed against him."

When is a "misspoke" become a "lie", and when does a "lie" become grounds for dismissal???

MrBreeze writes:

26, In the City of Marco Island never. Larry, if you are telling us the facts on this blog, then what were the alledged Code Infractions? I think we would all like to know.

Konfuzius writes:

in response to WMissow:

Is that the same Duane Thomas that had the audacity to run for City Council?

Just a joke! Marco Island did not need him.

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