DUNEDIN — City officials had no new cases to bring to the city's Code Enforcement Board last month — a first, they said.
Staff believes they are making progress toward ensuring that the city is not acting heavy-handed when dealing with code violations but are bringing about compliance to regulations.
Community Development Interim Director Joseph DiPasqua on Oct. 1 spoke to city commissioners about the steps city staff has taken recently to improve code enforcement efforts.
"I've received lots of good positive feedback because of the people we have in place," he said.
City officials advertised for a reclassified position and hired Chris Elbon, formerly Longboat Key's code enforcement officer, July 20 to be Dunedin code compliance supervisor. He supervises two code compliance inspectors.
"He brings an extensive background in code enforcement. Absolutely, he has been a welcome addition to the community," DiPasqua said. "He's already made some great changes and we're excited moving forward."
Changes in procedures allow testimony from petitioners at Code Enforcement Board meetings in addition to the written information they provide.
"I love the five minutes of testimony. I think that was desperately needed," Commissioner Heather Gracy said.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes had similar comments but said she still get calls on property owners causing problems.
"It is going to have to be a delicate balance," she said.
Commissioner Jeff Gow also said balance is the key in the process, but was pleased to hear that at the board's last meeting they had no new cases.
"That speaks volumes. Silence is wonderful," he said.
Commissioner Moe Freaney said though city officials don't want to be heavy-handed, "we also know we had bad actors who don't care."
"I just want to make sure we don't swing the pendulum too far and take the necessary tools out of our code enforcement board, who do a very good job," she said.
Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading Oct. 1 that caps the maximum total fine for any one continuing violation to be fixed at 20 times the original daily fine amount.
Commissioner Moe Freaney asked that the commission be given more information on examples of "real life situations" before the ordinance is presented on second reading.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said she is in favor of capping fines, but wants some more information on the fines.
"I want to see all the fines on one piece of paper. Because I feel there is going to be something missing," she said.
Bujalski also suggested that the Code Enforcement Board be renamed the Code Compliance Board. Among other efforts, city officials are reviewing plans for fine or lien amnesty.
Commissioners thanked DiPasqua for his work on the ordinance capping fines.
Staff asked to postpone the second reading of the ordinance until the second reading until Nov. 19 to address some concerns raised at that meeting. Commissioners unanimously agreed Oct. 15 to do so.
The city had been under the national media spotlight last year regarding its handling of some code enforcement issues. A homeowner filed a lawsuit against the city stemming from foreclosure action and $30,000 in fines he accrued due to uncut grass.