City considers foreclosure over $28,000 fine
A $30-a-day fine for a code violation has accumulated to a $28,000 bill
for one Holmes Beach property owner.
bill has prompted officials at city hall to consider foreclosure action
at 3707 Gulf Drive, the location of a duplex owned by William and Dianne
Sorg, of Brewster, N.Y. The city has already placed a lien on the property.
The Sorgs, at press
time, had not returned The
The case dates
back to August 2003, when Walter Wunderlich, the code enforcement officer at
the time, observed a problem with a second-floor balcony at the Gulf Drive property.
Wunderlich noted a “wall
missing” and that other areas “appear ... unsafe.” When
he looked up the history of the property, he also noticed that there was no rental
license on file.
Wunderlich contacted the
Sorgs about the situation. William Sorg, in a letter, said he was unaware a rental
license was needed and that he would take care of the balcony, which was not
used by tenants, when he returned to Holmes Beach from New York.
informed Wunderlich that “the
units are unoccupied and no one has access ... or means of getting onto
any decking.” The owner also raised the issue of holding an open permit
for work on the property, according to a June 2006 letter from the Sorgs’ attorney,
Jamie Goble, to Holmes Beach building official Bill Saunders.
paid a penalty for failure to have a rental license, but the problem with the
balcony remained and eventually was presented to the code enforcement board.
public hearing took place July 8, 2004, at which time the board made several
findings of fact, including that the property is used as a rental property and
that “the balcony is in poor repair and
unsafe in the opinion of the city,” which requires guardrails around balconies
to meet code requirements.
The board ordered
that the property be brought into compliance by Sept. 3, 2004, and stated that “for
purposes of this order, compliance means at a minimum, application for and receipt
of a building permit for necessary repairs to satisfy this order, and completion
of all work authorized by the permit.” The penalty, the board warned, could
be a fine of up to $250 a day.
The deadline passed
without the repairs taking place, according to city records. But, later that
fall, city officials observed that the balcony was fixed without a building permit.
code enforcement board met again on Oct. 21, 2004, and made four findings of
fact: the repairs were made without a properly issued building permit; without
a permit there has been no inspection to insure proper repair; the Sorgs had
repeatedly been told they needed a permit; and “the city must maintain
respect for its permitting system among all property owners.”
Based on the findings,
the code enforcement board levied a fine — $30 a day “for every day
the violation continues on the property.”
Sorg, in another
letter, repeated his assertion that he didn’t need to seek a permit because
he had an open-ended permit for work at the site.
But the city held its
position that there was no such open-ended permit, that no permitted work had
taken place at the site after 1989, and that the code violation continued to
exist. The fine, city officials stressed, also continued to mount.
recently as last October, the city reminded the Sorgs and their attorneys of
the code enforcement violation and the compounding fine. “The code enforcement
fine is running,” wrote attorney Jim
Dye on behalf of the city.
according to code enforcement officer Nancy Hall, continued until at least this
spring, when William Sorg pulled a permit for the repairs and began the process
of renewing a rental license for the property.
But the case remains open because
the fine has not been paid, Hall said.
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger presented the matter to city commissioners, asking whether
the city should take foreclosure action.
“The bottom line is if we do
nothing, they continue to compound the fine,” the mayor said.
Commissioner David Zaccagnino objected,
but the other commissioners approved of the city attorney pursuing a foreclosure.
people knew what to do and just didn’t do it,” said Sandy Haas-Martens,
the commission’s chair.
could have remedied [the violation] in less than 30 days,” she added.