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Fines are stacking up: Belleview struggles with code enforcement violations

By Bryce Abshier – Contact

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

City of Belleview Code Enforcement officials have their hands full, as the city attempts to resolve a couple of long lasting issues. At a Code Board Hearing held last week, the property at 4801 SE 102nd Place in Belleview was again a topic of discussion (pictured above, on left). Property owners Louvenia King, Gregory King and Joel King previously had their case heard and were found to be in violation of the unsafe structures code and the nuisance section of Belleview’s code on April 25.

As a result, they were given three months to obtain permits and remove the unsafe structure and 90 days to remove all rubbish from the property.

Apparently, rubbish was not all that needed to be removed from the property.

At the most recent hearing, a code enforcement official stated “On May 15, Mr. King came in requesting assistance with the removal of people from his property. He was referred to the Belleview Police Department,” the code officer said. “At that time, he was reminded that he needs to apply for permits to remove the mobile home, which was the unsafe structure,” the official went on. “A woman that was with him, she did not identify herself. She became angry about the permitting process. She stated that anyone should be able to do anything with their own property without the city’s permission.”

“She became angry, stated that city just wanted money and she left. Mr King did try to quiet her while he was there, unsuccessfully. He left with the permit application after she left the building.”

That was not the last they saw of this unidentified woman. “On June 7, that same woman returned to file more complaints concerning Mr. King and his property, however they were of a law enforcement nature. They were not anything that the city could help her with. She became agitated when we wouldn’t help her. She stated that despite Mr. King stating in his hearing that he did not live on the property, he is in fact living on the property.”

To make matters worse, the woman claimed that Mr. King was dumping human waste on the property.

On July 14, Joel King requested an extension on his deadline that could not be granted. Then on July 20, the previously agitated woman returned  for a third time with more complaints that were again of a law enforcement nature, and she was again referred to Belleview Police.

Out of control fires have been a concern at this particular property. It was revealed through code enforcement investigation that Mr. King was burning debris and trash while working on the premises. On August 11, code enforcement officials received a notice from Belleview Police that Mr. King called the police regarding the theft of a lawnmower. Police, while on site, noticed what they believed to be a burn pit, with a five-foot deep hole containing burnt garbage.

As of the date of the hearing, code enforcement officials reported Mr. King still had debris piles of garbage on his property. They also reported that he never applied for permits to remove the structure.

Joel King then took center stage to speak on his own behalf. He sounded like a defeated man, resigned to the case against him. “I’ve been robbed of everything, people come in off the road stealing,” King explained.

“I’m disabled. I’m trying to do the best I can. Nobody is trying to help me, I’ve been doing it by myself,” he said.

King went on to explain he needed help to fill out the permits, as he was unable to complete them on his own. He admitted that he had been given the permit applications on multiple occasions.

It was decided that fines of $250 per day will be retroactively applied as the violations were not corrected, with a maximum allotment of $5,000. The City of Belleview will then file a lien on the property.

About one mile away from this troubled code enforcement scene in Belleview rests another longstanding issue. A dilapidated RV ( pictured above, on right), with two adult male tenants, has trouble neighbors on SE 55th Court for years.

This prompted neighbors to pay another visit to city officials at the most recent Belleview City Commission meeting. “It looks like the old case has been dropped and they’ve started a new case,” one troubled neighbor explained. “So I’m concerned about that, because we keep opening and closing, opening and closing. So I want to know where we’re at on that and why we keep doing that.”

Officials explained that the old case was closed because it already went to the Code Board last April, with fines assessed to the owner, Brenda Turner, and a $5,350.00 lien was filed on the property. Nothing else can be done though, as the property has homestead exemption. Due to Florida law, the city cannot foreclose a lien on homestead exempt property.

According to code enforcement officials, new cases have now been opened and those have been mailed out to the Turner residence.

City Attorney Fred Landt spoke to commissioners about other techniques that could be employed in this unending RV battle. “You can go to court and ask for a warrant to inspect,” Landt explained. “One: You have to show probable cause that a violation exists. Two: you have to show, to get the warrant to inspect… that the inspection would give rise to a violation that would… warrant this intrusion on the person’s right to privacy.”

Landt also discussed methods of alternative enforcement through court proceedings. “First, you will have to amend your code to provide for the civil summons. And two, please understand, it’s not a misdemeanor, it’s not criminal, nobody is going to face jail,” Landt explained. “It is much like a traffic ticket that’s not a misdemeanor. There can be a civil fine and people have to come to court for that. If the person doesn’t appear, then they may face failure to appear charges and those are typically misdemeanors. But it terms of the code violations, no it’s a civil infraction if you go this route.”

“If there is a majority on the commission that wants to seek a warrant for inspection so you can see if serious violations that you think exist are in fact there, then let’s put it on the agenda and give the homeowner notice that its going to be considered at your next regular meeting, have a public hearing, give them due process to address it, and then if a majority of you want to do it we’ll move forward with seeing if the court will grant a warrant to inspect,” said Landt.

A few commissioners spoke on the importance of getting this RV saga resolved.

“If we don’t take care of this one, next thing you know we’ve got two, then three, then four,” said Commissioner Bo Smith.

“We’re already having an issue with people living in them (RVs) in other areas, we’ve already been trying to deal with that,” stated Commissioner Mike Goldman.

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

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