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Council sends lien ordinance to hearing

May 23, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council introduced a lien ordinance, updated construction on Mound House property, approved application for an environmental achievement award and announced a FEMA funding grant and another push for purchasing the Seafarer's site before setting their next workshop agenda.

Regarding the reduction on liens, Council approved to push a proposed ordinance to a public hearing, set for June 4, at 9 a.m. Town staff updated a previous version that Council was "uncomfortable" with due to complexity of decision-making for recommendation.

The proposed ordinance now has language involving the deletion of certain provisions relating to the execution of satisfactions and jurisdiction of lien, reduction and/or release of a code enforcement lien as well as the procedure to obtain one, application requirements, criteria for officials to follow when considering said applications for reduction of liens, time period for payment and the recording of the release of lien.

"We took a look at the various options being exercised in other communities now and felt like the City of Sanford offered a solution that will address the areas that must be addressed and also provided a little bit more simplicity," said Town Manager Terry Stewart.

The lien process was created to impose fines or fines plus repair costs as well as possible prosecution costs. A certified copy of such an order will be shown on public record thereby constituting a lien against land on which violation exists on property owned by violator.

The Town manager or designee has the authority to place a lien, but language on page 4 of the proposed ordinance states that, if an applicant wants to appeal the decision, he or she can do so by filing a written appeal to the town manager stating the reason(s) why Council should make an exception to its established guidelines and consider reduction or forgiveness. There is also language on the same page for such leniency.

"This is not imposed to punish somebody, it compels them to clear the violation," said Stewart. "The problem we run into is when they fail to do that. The greater majority of the violations we run up against are cured and never have to go this far."

Town staff reported only roughly 15 outstanding liens with a large amount of fines remain from a buildup over the years.

"I suspect that once we get rid of this back log, code enforcement will stay on top of this so that they don't continue to back up," said Stewart.

Regarding Mound House updates, work is ongoing to complete renovation of building structure as well as museum pieces and other components of the interior restoration project being looked into for that structure, joint use parking is still being negotiated and the Lee County Tourist Development Council has been notified about the desire to move forward on the TDC-funded observation pier.

"I promise you that staff is very clear that this stuff doesn't sit around and wait. They know that we need to move forward with all these items and make it work as quickly as possible," said Stewart.

Vice Mayor Bob Raymond has continually expressed concern for the overall project to be completed before year's end. Timetable estimations are still being reviewed.

"We are very close to having the final plans completed that will take us through finishing construction documents and getting ready to put it out on the streets for bid," said Public Works Director Cathie Lewis, the project coordinator. "I expect we will be bidding the house restoration at the end of this month or the early part of June with an opening in August."

Lewis then spoke on the observation pier project.

'It is my intention to place the remaining design with another consultant firm. I think that the Town is better served by having a marine engineering firm take it through construction plans and bidding versus a landscape architect," she said. "I am hoping to have that ready for bid, depending on the new consultant schedule, at the end of August or early part of September."

Next, Council unanimously approved Town staff to submit an application for the Florida Municipal Achievement Award in the Environmental Stewardship category. The application will focus on the Town's development and implementation of the Beach Nesting Bird Program under Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen, the 2011 Guy Bradley Award recipient.

A public speaker asked Town Council about its dog leash enforcement. Beach Patrol units observe the beachfront from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are involved in recognizing the problem, provide education and hand out warnings to violating owners and write citations for repeat offenders. The Town is currently doing an assessment in the early mornings and late afternoons to report on findings about off leash dogs during those time periods.

"Those are the times of the highest incidents on the beach," said Stewart. "We encourage anyone who sees this going on to call us to let us know when this is happening, so that we can intervene while it is actually happening."

The Town received a FEMA fund worth $1.2 million. Officials had planned for it to come in the previous year as it came from various elements of the Town budget and will be returned to those elements.

Councilman Alan Mandel reported he spoke to a potential developer for the Seafarer's site, as the Town is interested in re-submitting an offer to County officials to purchase the property.

"He basically would entertain giving us a letter of intent to purchase it from us as part of the development there," he said. "This property would give us control, and a number of people on the BOCC (county commission) would certainly like to seek something for the highest and best use (for that area)."

Council will discuss the matter during a workshop on June 4, at 2 p.m. Town staff will also discuss Consumption on Premises task force findings during that session as well.



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