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Sarasota Thu Mar 4, 2010 5 years ago

Transients set up camp in warehouse

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by: Robin Roy City Editor

After a neighbor sent city leaders photos of what he called a “boutique hobo hotel” on School Avenue, the city and the property owner are cleaning up the site.

The photos showed an abandoned warehouse that had been furnished by transients. They had brought in their own sofa, makeshift coffee table, side table, chairs, mattress and a couple of patterned throw rugs.

Developer Ron Burks owns the warehouse in the 300 block of School Avenue, where several warehouses currently stand. Officers have occasionally been forcing transients to leave who camped in the warehouses and behind them underneath thick trees and brush.

The resident’s photos of Burks’ warehouse quickly made the rounds at City Hall; police and code inspectors were sent to look at the site.

Burks met with city staff and was cited for yard waste, furniture and other debris that were discarded on his property.

Burks is appealing the citation, but has begun cleaning up the site.

“There had been some homeless camping on the property,” Burks said. “We’re picking up the underbrush, so there are no hiding places.”

The developer had been out of state working on a project and said he was unaware of what was taking place.

“All anybody needed to do was give me a call,” said Burks. “I would have taken care of it. I don’t want that kind of thing on my property.”

Burks said the Brazilian pepper trees on the site are to blame for creating places for transients to hide.

Burks said he had let the trees and brush grow, because he thought it might shield the abandoned warehouse from nearby neighborhoods, but he is now bringing in heavy equipment to clear the area.

But the developer is not the only property owner in the area. There is a railroad corridor behind the warehouses that are owned by CSX and Seminole-Gulf Railroad.

City staff has said it’s been having a difficult time getting the railroad companies to clear the brush off their properties.

Kathy Ford lives behind the railroad tracks. She said she’s been trying to get someone to clean up the area for about 10 years.

“I’ve had (transients) in my backyard,” she said. “Even though I have a fence, they just jump the fence. I have to triple-lock my doors.”

Ford recently noticed that some of the tree branches have been cut, but she said they were never picked up and now just lie on the ground.

She said someone from the city told her that the rest may not be cleaned up until the railroad companies arrive.

“If they’re going to do the job, do it right,” Ford said. “Otherwise, it’s a waste of money.”

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Project Status

Developer Ron Burks said his mixed-use project on School Avenue is on hold until the real-estate market rebounds. He said although the number of sales is on the rise, the decline in prices doesn’t make it financially feasible for him to begin construction yet.

“We’re anxious to go,” he said, but had no timetable on when that might be.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.
 

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