BELLEAIR BEACH – Residents came to the Jan. 6 Belleair Beach Council meeting with complaints about the city’s appearance. Beautification issues and derelict properties were the major concerns. Several council members later backed up the citizens’ remarks.
Alan Mintz told of a house on Harbor Drive that has been unoccupied for 14 years. Mintz said the home is in total disrepair and inhabited only by raccoons, opossums and rats. The electricity has been shut off since 2005, he said.
“This house is only minimally maintained when we call the code enforcement officer to complain. I have watched it deteriorate over the years,” Mintz said.
Mintz wants the city to remove the home or have the ownership changed. The owner currently lives in Las Vegas, he said.
Former Council Member Marvin Behm was concerned about another problem property on Louisa Drive. That house has been abandoned for five years, Behm said.
Code enforcement in the city is lacking, said former Mayor Lynn Rives, and that has been an issue since he led the city.
“Code enforcement is not code enforcing,” Rives said. He cited “boats in driveways, trailers that sit in front of houses two or three weeks at a time.” Rives said the house mentioned by Mintz “has been a disaster since 2004.”
“This (lack of enforcement) continues to happen,” said Rives. “If we’re not going to enforce the code, why don’t we just relax it?”
Longtime resident Dr. Bill Ward said Belleair Beach has made no progress in improving its appearance in the 25 years he has lived there. He urged the city to “look to the future” and move forward with beautification projects such as the undergrounding of utilities on Gulf Boulevard.
Council members backed up the residents’ concerns about the city’s appearance and code enforcement.
David Dumville said the quality of the community depends on “stepping up and making sure we are enforcing our codes and taking quick action on violations.” We need to take a serious look at code enforcement,” said Vice Mayor Leslie Notaro. “We’ve got to seriously enforce the code, or forget the code.” City Attorney Paul Marino said he will need a detailed report from the city’s code enforcement officer on the condition of the abandoned properties.
“When we find out how bad the situation is, we will find a legal way” to address it, Marino said.
Mayor Rob Baldwin said the city needs to know the criteria for abandoned property and blight, along with a detailed report of the findings on every aspect of the properties in question.
Undergrounding utilities on Gulf Boulevard is not likely, Baldwin added. That would cost millions and the city only has about a half million to spend on beautification of the boulevard, he said.
New vehicles to aid beach patrol
Patrolling of the beach should be helped by new golf cart sized utility vehicles being obtained by the Sheriff’s Office, Cpl. Kenneth Euler said. The carts are smaller and more agile than the current vehicles used, he said, and should increase the effectiveness of the police’s beach monitoring activities.