Thursday, December 14, 2006

Forclosure Bog Down

From Tribune - Kathy Steele


TBO.com Site Search Tribune archive from 1990
TAMPA - The fine meter for Cycle Masters and its owner, Scott Bitman, runs at $80 a day. At three years and counting, the meter is approaching $93,000.

Residents are counting on the city to send Bitman's code enforcement case to criminal court, foreclose on the property they call an eyesore, or both.

"They're trying to run me off," said Bitman, who has been selling motorcycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles at 7601 Nebraska Ave. since 1998. He said he's reorganizing after a bankruptcy.
His shop is under the scrutiny of the city's code enforcement division. The fines started running in 2003 when the code enforcement board found him guilty of illegal street parking and not demolishing an add-on to his shop that is too close to the street.

"It could very well happen soon," code inspector Bill Davidson said of a criminal court case against Bitman.

But a foreclosure? Not so fast.
Nearly two years ago, Mayor Pam Iorio issued an order authorizing foreclosures on non-homesteaded properties with liens and outstanding fines of 90 days or longer. City attorneys anticipated as many as 15 foreclosures a month.

As of last week, the city had not foreclosed on a single property. The city attorney's office reported five pending foreclosures filed at the Hillsborough County courthouse.

Since November 2005, city records show, code enforcement has referred about 80 cases for possible foreclosure, including Cycle Masters. The referrals are reviewed by the real estate department before the legal department decides whether to seek foreclosure.

"It's a little disappointing," City Attorney David Smith said, expressing surprise at the lack of foreclosures.

Office Changes Affect Pace

The slow pace partly can be traced to personnel changes and a reorganization, Smith said. The assistant city attorney who handled code enforcement cases shifted to the real estate department and his replacement started in June.

In 2005, the city council approved increasing maximum daily fines from $250 for first offenders and $500 for repeat offenders to $500 and $1,000, respectively.

The city collected about $1.3 million in code enforcement fines in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, up from about $821,000 in 2005 and $614,000 in 2004.

Smith said there also have been challenges in coordinating foreclosure efforts among code enforcement, real estate and his office.

"It's a typical city situation where you have multiple departments," he said.
Bill Doherty, code enforcement deputy director, said he screens cases from a list of about 1,500 with active liens, eliminating those with homestead exemptions and sending remaining candidates to the real estate department.

He said it is frustrating when the city "can't take the final step we have. We want foreclosures."
In August, Doherty received an e-mail from Smith's office outlining guidelines for identifying 20 cases a month for possible foreclosure: properties should be non-homesteaded, have five or more code enforcement cases within three years and more than $200,000 in fines.

Under those guidelines, Doherty said, some cases could drag on for years.
Smith said the guidelines are not hard-and-fast rules.

Residents Seek Action
At a recent code enforcement workshop in Seminole Heights, residents said the city's legal department ignores cases filed by code inspectors.

Residents living near Cycle Masters point to years of repeated violations for open storage, junk vehicles, debris, illegal parking and an add-on structure built without permits and too close to the street.

Court records show the city fined Bitman about $43,000 in a 1999 code case involving inoperable vehicles and open storage but never collected.

"It just doesn't quit," said Susan Long, chairwoman of Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association's code enforcement committee.

The city is telling offenders "you can get fined and get away with it," association President Randy Baron said.

Smith said the city does not want to be in the business of acquiring properties, particularly those that might drain city coffers because of environmental problems, liens and other issues.
"It's not as simple as it looks," he said.

The five pending foreclosures are in Seminole Heights, Ybor City, and West and East Tampa. Among those cases, the oldest violations date nearly 10 years to a vacant lot at 1306 North Bay St., which has fines totaling about $107,000.

The case with the largest total fines, $263,700, involves the former Coarsey Groves Gift Shop property, 6703 N. Armenia Ave.

Bitman, whose property is not among the pending foreclosures, also has a code case dating to August. The case, which involves citations for debris accumulation and illegal open storage, is set for a code enforcement board hearing Jan. 10.

Bitman said he plans to build a storage facility to replace trailers that code enforcement says are illegal. Within the past weeks, he said, he complied with an inspector's request to clear debris from atop a trailer. He also said an illegally parked vehicle has been moved.
Bitman said he is a small businessman who brings jobs to the neighborhood.
"We keep our area nice," he said. "We have a nice business here."

Reporter Kathy Steele can be reached at (813) 835-2103 or ksteele@tampatrib.com.

---------------------------------
....guidelines are not hard-and-fast rules! Duh! None of it is hard and fast, and that is why violators play fast and loose! Nothing will ever be done about any of it until people know what the rules are and that they mean something. We have years of letting it slide. Forgiving and looking the other way. We now have what we ordered up! No one worries about the rules at all! Only people who abide by them are the people who don't need them.

...........multiple departments
is that supposed to be a good excuse? It is one of the most serious issues with the city. There are many excellent people in many excellent departments. But none of them have the facility or ability to interact effeciently. Why is this so obvious to an outsider and not to someone in city?

...............the oldest violations date nearly 10 years to a vacant lot at 1306 North Bay St., which has fines totaling about $107,000.
This is a real lot in a real neighborhood and could probably find a buyer. It has been a trash can for years. Somethng we battled and battled. And now it lingers.....why?

....................The slow pace partly can be traced to personnel changes and a reorganization
have we been reorganizing for ten years?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I drive by this cycle shop every day. Yes the man does owe a lot in fines or whatever, but I think they keep this shop very clean and I don't consider it an eyesore at all. They have even decorated with lites! The fenced in car lots are an eyesore and so are the sloppy dilapidated buildings. Give this guy a break.

Anonymous said...

WOW - who would have thought - more excuses from yet another department of the city not doing their job - I'm suprised they are not all blind down there with so much finger pointing going on - somebody will lose an eye before it's over!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:23, Tampa became the Armpit of Florida with this exact "Give the Guy a break" attitude. If our elected officials would stand up and uphold the very simple codes and laws that we elected them to protect, we would not have this issue. If you give this guy a break, what is next. I noticed earlier on a different posting someone mentioned the illegal mulch parking lot of a new antique store. While it is great to have a new business, drive by this building in 12 months and see how it looks. Laws and codes were created for a reason. What would it be like if you were in a wheelchair, how would you access this business. They must have hard surface, handicapped accessible access. This store does not! The current administration has done more harm in her short term than Mayor Greco had in his lifetime of politics. At least Greco jumpstarted the redevelopment of Ybor, Started Channelside. What has Iorio done. Spent millions on a riverwalk that is unused. Moving an perfectly good art museum 50 yards so that her riverwalk can continue. At some point we must take a stand and force the code department, city council and city attys to enforce the code as it was written. No more exceptions, no more bending the rules. Imagine what Tampa would look like clean. If every commercial building was brought up to code. Today I was riding down 275 with a coworker from Pittsburgh. She mentioned how Tampa is one of the dirtest cities and how it is dirtier than Pitts. Go Figure! Yet our Mayor and the city have done nothing to clean the city. There is still trash under the overpasses, the center of the highway has more garbage than a city dump. If this were my city and I was elected as mayor, I would be on the phone every single day to FDOT until they cleaned the garbage and MOWED the exit ramps. When was the last time the highway medians and right aways were mowed.

Anonymous said...

You're comment about your coworker from Pittsburg says a lot - I always viewed Pitt as a dirty industrial city with potholes the size of small cars when I went to visit in-laws. I guess we become accustomed to living with filth and don't even see it anymore and that's sad.

Kinda like when we first moved into the 'hood and pulling onto Nebraska and seeing the hookers and having people say that they have always been there and there is nothing you can do about it.

Every piece of trash we pick up and every sign at the intersections that we pull up and throw away makes a difference on our level - now as you state if we make the city responsible then.......maybe we should hire a lawyer and threaten to sue - that tends to make the city back down and not enforce the laws.

Anonymous said...

In responce to this. Check your lawbook and know what your are talking about before your quote the law. No law in the city of Tampa says you cant have a mulch parkinglot. Wheelchair acess and handicapped parking donot apply to a retail store like that cute antique store on Hillsborough. If you think tampa is sutch a pitt get the hell out we don't need your nasty Tude!!!!

Anonymous said...

why dont you shove it up your A$$?
who uses the word tude?
only a 'tard' like you.
has anyone heard the rumor though that sherry is considering running for city council
is there any truth to this?
i heard it from a good source that she is in the exploratory phase.
after all,it was sherry that started the sesh joint cooperation efforts that have made a huge dent in the crime
i think there are two reasons for what happened in sesh with regards to massive amounts of capital and investing going on here.
1.her efforts to bring a good code officer here from downtown have paid off
2.i feel safe at night-the police are crippling the criminals and the drug and prostitution trades
3.from what i was told, santigo has authorized doing whatever it takes to clean it up here by any means necessary. is he the only one in city hall that can make a damn decision?
4 years ago we voted dickie boy out.
he didnt hear us when we complained.
i think pam listens to us but with partial blinders-
i will be interested to see what she has to say about code in the next election

CouldBeSherry said...

Well that rumor is just a rumor. Once and for all. I have no time for, nor interest in running for City Council. I love what I do in the hood. To me, it is more personal and more rewarding than city council. However, we have an excellent candidate to support. Randy Baron!

cartman said...

Listen up Tard, Dickie boy was termed limited out. I'm sick of your Tude!

Anonymous said...

Im sick of you.
Go get your rocks off at a weight watchers meeting or something.
Dickie boy is not termed out.
He can run again.
I think I am sending Santigo an email right now and demanding changes be made.
Santigo is the only one that can make a decision.
Everyone else is like sheep.
Follow the last sheeps a##.
Baaaaa
When we have problems, all we have to do is send Santigo an email and literally within a day, our problems our fixed.
I dont care if he is a politician or not.
He is the only one capable of fixing our problems.
So why am I paying taxes to keep everyone elses lazy a## on the payroll?
No one care about anything you have to say fat a##.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't read much into the Pittsburgh comment-- it's actually a beautiful city and very clean. The steel mill days and smog are long gone. Tampa definitely needs some work but it's also nowhere near as bad as some of these posts make it out to be.

Resident Blogger said...

OMG get a clue. You guys have no idea how things work and what it takes to make a change. It is not nowm, nor ever will be a one man show. Takes a village.

Anonymous said...

I got a clue.
The main reason for change is because Santigo started getting involved and coming to SESH and taking an interest in out neighborhood.
No, it is not just him its many people.
Sherry pushing him for things, Scott Banghart pushing downtown for things.
But its not a village pushing so dont be mistaken.
Its the same few its always been.
However, it just seems like Sherry can get along with everyone.
She has an amazing relationship with EVERYONE.
For instance, the police LOVE Sherry.
She makes them feel good.
Like the article below.
I have heard from more than one cop that they enjoy working for people like Sherry who back them up and treat them good.
Thats why everyone wants Sherry to run for office.
She would get the Police support and the residents.