MARCO ISLAND — It’s a time of change for Marco Island’s Code Enforcement Board.
For years, home values were underwater, depressed by the end of the housing bubble and recession. In addition, code violations abounded for failure to connect to the city’s sewer system. It was a perfect storm that the board weathered.
In district after district, board members determined fines for failure to connect to the city’s sewer system as part of the Septic Tank Replacement Program. Most of the properties that came before them were in foreclosure, later to be returned to lenders that were already counting their losses.
Foreclosure is a lengthy process. Lenders slog through the courts to reclaim properties and titles.
Meanwhile, fines for failure to connect mounted. To secure the fines, the city placed liens on noncompliant properties.
Now that the last STRP district is complete and the one year requirement to connect draws to a close, the storm has passed.
In its wake, the board will be challenged by its aftermath: mitigation.
On Tuesday, the board heard three cases requesting relief from skyrocketing fines.
119 Gulfport Court
In the case of 119 Gulfport Court, JPMorgan Chase Bank reacquired the property. The title was transferred on Oct. 30, 2013. Within 88 days of the transfer, the bank complied with the city’s order to connect to the sewer.
The property had been in violation for 189 days. Fines of $250 per day accrued on the property. The city’s maintenance costs of $782 and an administration fee of $250 brought the total to $48,282.
Joe Matarazzo of Realty World in Estero came before the board. He was assigned the task of repairing the property and getting it ready to sell. But it would be impossible to sell, he said, with the city’s lien in the way.
“I look at this two different ways,” said board member Rony Joel. “Perhaps the fine should be $250 per day for 88 days, or $22,000.”
He went on to describe the difficulties of completing a sewer connection once a new owner finds out about the deficiency. That led to his second view of how to mitigate the fine.
The board voted unanimously for Joel’s second suggestion, to assess the bank $25 per day for 189 days plus the city’s hard costs and administration fee. The amount due was reduced to $5,757.
1610 Almeria Court
The property at 1610 Almeria Court was given the same consideration.
Currently with Downing-Frye Realty, the property was connected to the sewer in December. Fines had accrued for 250 days. With additional maintenance and administration fees, the total owed to the city was $63,672.02.
The board voted to reduce that amount to $25 per day for 250 days. Mitigated fines totaled $7,422.02.
83 Madagascar Court
A third property at 83 Madagascar Court was purchased at auction by former city councilor Heyward Boyce’s son-in-law, Kevin O’Neill. Boyce lives in the house next door at 88 Madagascar Court.
The foreclosed home had deteriorated, Boyce told the board. The lawn had turned brown, landscaping and weeds were overgrown, and the pool’s water turned black. Failure to connect fines were mounting at $250 per day.
His daughter and son-in-law were in Naples receiving the title as the hearing progressed, Boyce said, and a contract had been secured and scheduled to connect to the sewer as soon as possible.
City staff told Boyce that as a procedural matter, the item could not be heard before the board until the sewer connection was completed. His case was moved forward and will be heard at a later date.
In new business, a case for failure to connect at 300 Capistrano Court, owned by Brien Spina, was dismissed. The owner completed the connection in the required time, said Code Compliance Officer Liz Carr.