Walter “Kris” Kristlibas was surprised to learn inaction was the best course of action to convince Sarasota County to mow a lawn.
Kristlibas, the chairman of the landscaping and compliance for the Siesta Isles Association, discovered that fact while attempting to resolve an Oct. 2 complaint from a neighbor of 820 Idlewild Way.
The property had been abandoned and left overgrown. Weeds stretched more than 1 foot up the sides of and nearly above the property’s mailbox, which was missing numbers and coated in dried mud.
Sarasota County cited the property’s owner with a notice of public nuisance Oct. 10, punishable by fines of $250 per day after Oct. 20.
The notice also indicated the county would contract with a landscaping company to bring the lawn into compliance if the property owners were unresponsive.
Neighbors declared the property was abandoned, and public records show the owners, Stephen and Mary Mullen, have been involved in foreclosure proceedings since May 2009.
But, in October, Kristlibas found the contract had yet to be awarded and hired his own landscaper to fix the overgrown property.
Siesta Isles Association members have voluntarily cleaned or performed landscaping work at properties in the past, but Kristlibas was concerned about the low-hanging palm fronds and branches, and the possibility that snakes were lurking within the weeds.
“It was so bad, I was pretty concerned someone was going to get hurt,” Kristlibas said while pointing to the palm trees in the center of the front yard.
“Happy to report that the ‘jungle’ at my neighbor’s house at 820 Idlewild Way has been removed and what an improvement it has made,” wrote neighbor Dick Wilsen in an Oct. 28 email to Kristlibas.
Kristlibas reached out to the county code-enforcement department again Feb. 1 and discovered the county issued a contract for landscaping properties in violation, and the board would need to file a new complaint against the property.
But, thanks to Kristlibas’ lawn company, the grass and weeds had not reached the 12-inch height threshold considered a violation.
“It has to violate the law,” said North County Code Enforcement Supervisor Charles Marchione during a Feb. 15 interview with the Pelican Press. “If it violates the law, we can move on it.”
If Kristlibas and the Siesta Isles Association board of directors decided not to tame the yard, the grass would have grown higher than limit outlined in the Sarasota County code. Then the county could have sent a contractor in to bring the property into compliance.
“I guess we’ll just have to watch the grass grow,” Kristlibas said.