110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Aug 23, 2012 - 4:43:17pm
After weighing a homeowner’s pleas for relief and discussing their desire to uphold Deltona’s property ordinances, the Deltona City Commission Aug. 20 voted to reduce — but not eliminate — a five-figure code-enforcement fine.
“I just came out of bankruptcy. I don’t have any money,” Perez told commissioners.
Perez said a short sale of the home is pending, now that the tenants who she said violated city rules on property upkeep have moved.
“I evicted them. I cleaned the house,” Perez said. “I have no gain in this.”
She also said the renters had failed to pay her.
“I didn’t collect rent from these people for 13 months,” Perez said.
The tenants, according to city records, parked inoperable vehicles on the lot and failed to mow the grass.
The violations continued for 433 days, and the fines for each of two violations were set at $100 per day, beginning May 26, 2011.
Enforcement Services Director Dale Baker said the fines started to mount after Perez failed to appear at a hearing conducted by Special Magistrate Charles Cino, who tries code-enforcement cases in Deltona.
“The only people who can get fined are those that, as you say, blow us off,” Baker said.
He also said the property has a history of code problems dating back to 2005.
Vice Mayor Paul Treusch was sympathetic to Perez’s plight.
“I think Mrs. Perez is a victim of circumstances here,” he said, suggesting the fine be reduced to $5,000.
Commissioner Zenaida Denizac voiced support for the lower fine, “in light of the economy.”
Mayor John Masiarczyk was willing to go along with Treusch’s idea of a $5,000 fine, but said he was “not willing to go with anything below that.”
“Those neighbors had to put up with this for a long time,” Masiarczyk said.
Commissioner Heidi Herzberg took a hard line on the case.
She argued that reducing fines sends the wrong message to the city’s code-enforcement officers, as well as to violators.
“It’s demoralizing for staff,” Herzberg said. “I’m not in favor of a reduction, certainly not down to $5,000.”
A series of motions ended in a 5-2 vote to set the fine at $10,000, to be paid within 60 days, whether the sale of her home is closed or not.
Treusch and Herzberg voted no, and Masiarczyk was part of the majority that also included Commissioners Denizac, Michael Carmolingo, Fred Lowry and Herb Zischkau.
“You mean I have to pay that?” Perez asked the City Commission.
The answer was yes.
Over the past three years, the City Commission has routinely considered requests to waive or cut code-enforcement fines for homes in distress.
The foreclosure crisis hit Deltona especially hard, and the volume of code cases has likewise mounted, as signs of neglect and deterioration show up in neighborhoods once known for their neatly kept landscapes and attractive homes.
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