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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 1 year ago

North Trail buildings draw concerns

Residents want the city to take action to address issues associated with derelict motels, which has led to a demolition order for at least one structure.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

At a Jan. 5 Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations meeting, a resident of the Indian Beach-Sapphire Shores neighborhood asked City Manager Tom Barwin what the city is doing to ensure buildings on the North Trail are properly maintained.

Barwin said city code enforcement staff are dutiful about addressing complaints in the area, particularly when it comes to derelict motel properties. As proof, he pointed to the city’s recent issuance of a demolition order for the SeaBreeze Inn, located at 4429 N. Tamiami Trail.

The west-of-trail neighborhood has long been concerned about the status of North Trail motels. Joanne Gonet, president of the Indian Beach-Sapphire Shores Neighborhood Association, said residents have questioned whether the city was being rigorous enough in enforcing the code in blighted portions of the trail.

“If they see an issue, they should automatically do it and not wait for a neighbor to complain,” Gonet said.

Tim Litchet, the city’s director of neighborhood and development services, confirmed that most code enforcement is a response to resident complaints. But he said staff is also paying close attention to the North Trail, which elected officials have identified as a segment of the city in need of improvement.

“We’re aware this is an area of particular concern for the City Commission,” Litchet said. “They’ve made it clear the North Trail and redevelopment is a priority.”

Litchet said the city starts by issuing code compliance violations to properties in need of improvement. But if an owner is unresponsive or continues to let a building fall into a state of disrepair, the city’s building official is authorized to issue a demolition notice.

In the notice for the SeaBreeze Inn, issued Dec. 19, 12 different violations are listed. The document describes the property as a nuisance, a fire hazard, a detriment to surrounding property values and a health and safety risk lacking sufficient ventilation and plumbing facilities, among other issues.

Although he said the city is committed to active code enforcement in the area, Litchet said staff’s ongoing discussion of new North Trail building regulations would be an even more effective tool for addressing substandard properties.

“I can cite people and cite people, but what really changes things is having good zoning that facilitates redevelopment,” Litchet said.

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