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Subcommittee strives to determine focus

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  • | 5:00 a.m. February 6, 2013
  • Longboat Key
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The house next door sold.

Gone is your old neighbor and her neatly manicured lawn.

Your new neighbor replaced it with dirt, on which he parks his giant Hummer. He partially knocked down a wall, but the other half has remained. He also installed a shower nozzle in the front yard so that he can rinse off before going inside.

It doesn’t matter if everyone on the block complains to code enforcement, because the property isn’t in violation of current town codes.

The newly formed Planning & Zoning Property Maintenance Code Subcommittee discussed the home, which does, in fact, exist, at its first meeting Thursday, Jan. 24.

The subcommittee’s mission is to review the town’s property-maintenance codes to determine if stricter regulations are needed.

Currently, town codes are limited to weeds-and-grass violations and life-safety issues.

A revised code could address issues that the town hears complaints about but can’t enforce — such as peeling paint, ripped screens, caving roofs and broken doors, stairways, windows and railings.

But, there’s also the alternative scenario that comes with a stricter code. Suppose the paint on your garage door is chipped, or your window doesn’t open, and your neighbor has a grudge.

It wouldn’t matter how miniscule the violation.

“If (they) can show you that this is on the books, then I can’t tell Amanda (Nemoytin) not to enforce the codes,” said Longboat Key Planning Zoning & Building Director Robin Meyer, referring to the town’s code-enforcement officer.

At the Jan. 24 meeting, the subcommittee discussed the need to address the problematic issues without becoming Big Brother.

“I think what we need to define now is how far we want to go,” Meyer said.

Subcommittee member Len Garner said that most property owners respond when code enforcement notifies them that their property is in violation of codes.

“Our focus here is to try to identify specific issues that need focusing,” Garner said.

Another member, John Wild, suggested that a reasonable approach could be enforcing violations if they’re visible from the road, along with life-safety issues.

The town’s Code Enforcement Department is reactive rather than proactive, according to Meyer, meaning that it primarily reacts to reported violations rather than actively searching for violations.

Changing that policy would require more staffing, because Nemoytin the town’s only code-enforcement officer.

The subcommittee has now met for three weeks in a row and gotten halfway through the ordinance it’s seeking to bolster. Future discussions will be held to discuss trailers and parking issues.

The subcommittee hopes to be finished with its review before the Planning and Zoning Board holds its 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 regular meeting.



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