REDINGTON SHORES – An ordinance that penalizes property managers and owners who habitually rent to problem tenants is being considered by Redington Shores officials.
Similar ordinances adopted by Madeira Beach, West Palm Beach and Milwaukee, Wis., are being touted as among the nation’s toughest laws in dealing with chronic nuisance properties.
The law is considered visionary in that it targets landlords who continually rent to persons engaging in criminal or nuisance activities and imposes stiff penalties, including heavy fines and property liens. Fines levied against owners of nuisance properties are considered ad valorem tax assessments and have to be paid like taxes, making them easier to collect.
The list of nuisance behaviors is long, and includes alcohol related offenses, prostitution, assault, theft, domestic violence, animal cruelty, rowdy parties, and various criminal activities.
A draft of the proposed ordinance got a generally favorable reception at the town commission’s Jan. 30 workshop.
“This has teeth,” said Vice Mayor John Branch.
Commissioner Casey Wojcik said just the threat of enforcing the law works to modify behavior.
“If it becomes a chronic event, we have some recourse,” he said.
Police Sgt. Jeff Rawson agreed.
“Something like this gives you some teeth,” Rawson said. “It’s like a dog’s barking is effective. It doesn’t have to bite.”
Rawson said passage of a criminal nuisance ordinance would be “acting wisely going forward,” though he thought the instances in Redington Shores where it would be used would likely be “a couple of times a year every couple of years.”
Mayor Bert Adams mentioned one property in particular where the town would benefit from having a nuisance law in force.
“We fined (the property owner) and the check bounced,” Adams said. “After that they paid the fine in cash and then just went ahead doing what they were doing.”
Some property owners have criticized Madeira Beach’s nuisance ordinance as “overkill” there.
“You don’t need a bazooka to kill a flea,” said the president of a tourist property rental firm. That city has an estimated 130 chronic nuisance properties.
Commissioner Lee Holmes was concerned about the difficulty of monitoring and administering the law.
“There’s a lot to administer and follow through if we have only a few properties,” he said.
But Commissioner Casey Wojcik said, “Small town, small staff. Enforcing is the hardest thing you can do. This can help us enforce and follow through.”
Holmes said later, “I don’t think we compare to Madeira Beach. But we need something with a lot of teeth in it and maybe this is the answer.”
Adams said he would invite Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford to discuss the effects of that city’s nuisance law at this month’s Town Commission meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
High-end condo project proposed
A long-dormant Planned Unit Development project may be getting new life as an all-condo building. PUDs are usually intended to be mixed use developments.
The PUD was approved in 2004 for a vacant lot next to the LaVistana condominium at 17720 Gulf Blvd. It was envisioned as a project that would have shops and offices on the first floor with condo units above. The PUD approval is good for 10 years and is due to expire in 2014.
New owners of the property have decided there is not enough square footage on the lot for a mixed-use development and are proposing seven large condo units instead. Fourteen condominiums were originally planned.
The property is zoned ROR (Residential Office Retail) and has a current density of 40 units.
The current owners are ready to develop the property, after a delay of eight years, Holmes told the commission. Adams said they are willing to offer amenities such as green space, a bus shelter or clock tower to the town in exchange for permission to construct an all-condo building rather than the mixed commercial-residential use planned.
“They do not want a commercial building,” Adams said.
Building Official Steve Andrews confirmed retail space is not viable for the property. The cost of development would be prohibitive, he said.
Commissioner Tom Kapper said he would be pleased to see fewer but larger condo units built on the property.
“It’s strange for a developer to want to downsize, but it is good for us,” he said. “I just want to see this completed.”
Adams said the proposed project would be “a great improvement to Redington Shores.” The property is “an eyesore” now, he said.
The revised PUD will now go before the town Planning and Zoning Board. If the P&Z board and the commission approve it, construction could start within a year, Andrews said.