This home at 627 78th Ave. in St. Pete Beach has accrued $254,925 in fines and liens over the past decade. City commissioners voted unanimously May 23 to foreclose on the property, which is owned by James Birmingham.
ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners voted unanimously May 23 to initiate a foreclosure lawsuit against the owner of a nuisance home at 627 78th Ave.
The home, which has been in disrepair and in violation of a variety of city code regulations for over a decade, has accrued $254,925 in fines related to multiple liens filed by the city.
According to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office, the home has a current just market value of $147,118, which means the city will likely not get the full amount it is owed or the additional cost of abatement procedures that will be forthcoming.
According to City Attorney Andrew Dickman, at a minimum, the site is in violation of sanitary facilities, hot water, water heating equipment, heating, smoke detectors, window screens, electrical lights, electrical outlets and ventilation. In addition, Dickman told commissioners, the property is in violation of being potentially noxious, dangerous or offensive to residents, as well as another code that prohibits living accommodations in a detached garage.
“This has been a chronic nuisance for the city for over 10 years,” said Dickman. “The city has north of $200,000 of liens. We have conducted some abatement on the property already to try to clean up some of the hazards in the front yard. In the back yard, other dangers are going to require abatement, which will be recoupable by the city under a lien.”
He said the foreclosure action will name anyone who is the owner of the property, should the current owner, James Birmingham, sell the site or hand it over to someone else.
Birmingham purchased the 618-square-foot house in February 1992 for $50,000. It is not currently homesteaded.
Nearby neighbors have related story after story of code violations and alleged illegal activities going on at the property over the last decade. Understandably, they are glad to see something is finally being done to end it.
“Our living room wall is a picture window, like a TV screen, of the situation there,” said Susan Perodeau, who lives across the street at 618 78th Ave., told commissioners. “I’m here tonight to thank (city) attorney Andrew Dickman for staying on top of this and not letting it drop. We’re very excited to see this here tonight and state our full support for foreclosure on this property.”
“This is a situation that is totally out of control and is a menace to our neighbors,” said Karen Hale, who lives at 7711 Coquina Way at the corner of 78th Avenue. “There’s a white van there overnight and it leaves in the morning. We think it’s due to the fact that there’s not a toilet to go to the bathroom in and there’s no shower facilities. This is serious.”
A civil case against Birmingham in 2012, which was filed by the city’s former legal counsel, resulted in a judgment against Birmingham.
“But for some reason nothing happened after that,” said Dickman, who also will be following up on that action in the court system.
Dickman said Birmingham has been given every opportunity to correct the issues.
“I personally, probably three or four months ago, went and visited with (Birmingham),” said Dickman. “It was very clear to him that this is going to get out of my hands very quickly if we can’t get this under control. It is what it is. It has gone beyond my control. I think we need to move on this.
“I don’t like doing this against a resident of the city but I feel the city has been abundantly fair with this situation,” Dickman added.
“I’ve been a commissioner in District 1 since 2014, and it’s been an issue for the neighbors contacting me when this continued,” said City Commissioner Terri Finnerty. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live there.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Commissioner Melinda Pletcher. “It’s a shame that somewhere over the last decade it hasn’t been able to get some level of cure. I feel so sorry for everyone (neighbors) who is not having the full enjoyment of their home and peace.”
“Moving forward on this is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Al Johnson.
In other action, commissioners:
• Approved a special event application for the annual Surfers for Autism event July 8 at Pass-A-Grille Beach. In conjunction, Ninth and 10th avenues will be closed from Pass-A-Grille Way to Gulf Way during the event.
• Approved the purchase of a 2017 GMC Savana 12-passenger van for $25,331. The van will be assigned to the Recreation Department.
• Authorized one-year mowing contracts for Districts 3 and 4 totaling $109,855. City employees will handle Districts 1 and 2.
• Approved change orders to the purchase agreement with Nelson Construction for the Pass-A-Grille Way Reconstruction Project totaling $69,949.61. Of that amount, the city will be reimbursed $35,918 by Pinellas County. The changes involve unforeseen issues with the potable water and sewer systems.
• Approved a change order for $47,530 to USA Voltage LLC for undergrounding of utilities along Pass-A-Grille Way.
• Approved a $25,142 contract with Pavement Technology Inc., for asphalt street repairs.
• Passed an ordinance on first reading making it legal to sell alcohol in the city 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week. The ordinance makes the city consistent with Pinellas County. Second and final reading will be June 13.