Town commissioners considered an ordinance last week that, if approved, would alter the way Longboat Key’s town code is enforced.
The ordinance would allow the Code Enforcement Board to continue issuing liens for code violations, but it would also give code enforcement officers the option to issue citations with monetary fines, similar to parking tickets.
Commissioners also discussed the possibility of eliminating the Code Enforcement Board altogether, but that action would require a change to the town's charter.
At a commission workshop, Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale spoke of a recent situation in which a licensed contractor, hired by a Key property owner, was improperly using a storm drain.
If the officer had the option to issue a citation on the spot, the contractor could have been held accountable instead of the property owner, Mooney-Portale said.
The ordinance would also add a special magistrate to hear code-related cases. While the Code Enforcement Board is composed of Key residents, the special magistrate would be a member of the Florida Bar who does not live in the Longboat community.
Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein said one of the aims of the ordinance is to encourage code compliance during crucial times such as turtle-nesting season. The citation option would allow the town the ability to take some measure against renters or visitors who are violating codes.
If issued a citation, the violator could either pay the fine, contest the citation or appear before the special magistrate.
Such a hearing could be scheduled faster than setting up a Code Enforcement Board meeting.
Hein stressed that citations would only be issued after code enforcement officers have made informal attempts to gain compliance, such as by telling people they are violating the town code.
“Our goal is not to gain revenue,” Hein said. “Our goal is to gain compliance.”
Commissioners expressed concerns about how code officers would use discretion, with no guidelines, to determine how to approach violations.
“We could have a situation where the exact same thing could happen, even on the same day, one person would get a citation, one person would get a lien,” Vice Mayor Phill Younger said. “I’m not comfortable with that.”
After discussing elimination of the Code Enforcement Board, the commissioners set aside further action until after the Charter Review Committee has been appointed.