Bradenton eases way to tear down condemned structures

myoung@bradenton.comMarch 27, 2014 

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The city of Bradenton will now have more authority to condemn structures like this house on 12th Street West in the Village of the Arts after passing an unsafe structures ordinance Wednesday.GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

BRADENTON -- They will huff and puff and tear your house down -- or give you time to fix it because the Bradenton City Council isn't trying to be the big, bad wolf.

The council is more interested in being the fairy godmother of community enhancement by passing an unsafe structure ordinance at Wednesday's meeting.

The city is drawing a line in the sand for property owners to repair or tear down unsafe structures, but would rather see them take care of the problem first.

Dilapidated homes are increasingly impeding community improvement progress and presenting safety issues, officials say.

Tim Polk, director of planning and community development, said his staff has identified at least 35 potentially dangerous structures.

"What we've been doing is looking at each ward for structures that cannot be rehabbed and pose a danger to the community, and identify funds through the community development block grants that can be used to demolish those structures," said Polk. "We need a way to go after some of those properties that pose a danger to these neighborhoods."

Polk said the ordinance was modeled after Manatee County's unsafe structure law. Polk said he receives many citizen complaints and the new ordinance will allow

the city to satisfy the needs of the citizens.

The ordinance defines unsafe structures as having egresses inadequately sized or in disrepair to the point of hampering foot traffic in an emergency. Structures with stress loads in excess of Florida building codes or built in violation of the codes are subject to the ordinance, as is any building with structural damage. Unsafe or unsanitary buildings are also subject to city action.

The ordinance allows building officials or authorized representatives to enter and inspect any suspect property. Officials must present proper identification to go into any occupied structure. If refused entry, the ordinance grants the building official legal recourse to pursue entry.

If the property fails inspection, the building official will determine if the occupants must vacate the premises and determine whether the structure can be repaired or will be demolished.

Owner will have 60 days to complete any repairs deemed necessary.

If demolition is ordered, the owner must obtain permits and complete the razing by the deadline set by the inspector. A one-time extension can be granted by documenting good cause.

Property owners can appeal the building official's decision in writing within 30 days of receiving notice and a city construction trade board hearing will be scheduled.

If an owner fails to meet the deadline, the city can pay for repairs or demolition and charge the property owner. If the owner does not pay within 30 days, the city is authorized to place a lien on the property.

The ordinance passed 4-0.

In other action:

• The city council voted 4-0 to allow the Just for Girls Academy, 3809 59th St. W., to construct a new 26,390-square-foot charter school and demolish the existing 7,560-square-foot building, which has stood since the 1970s.

Just for Girls CEO Becky Canesse said the East Bradenton charter school would move to the new location when construction is complete in late 2016, if fundraising is successful.

The project is expected to cost $4.4 million. Canesse said she will rely on the city and Manatee County's commitment for CDBG funding.

The program is expanding to where Just for Girls Academy is adding a grade a year and plans to maximize grade levels from K-8 by the time the new school opens, she said.

Just for Girls educates young girls in academics and life skills.

"We want to promote education, not incarceration," said Canesse. "We design a school around the whole child. We are changing lives and creating a brighter future for these girls."

Planning and design are in the preliminary phases. Canesse said volunteer architects and engineers with ZNS Engineering of Bradenton will detail the plan as the process moves forward.

Mayor Wayne Poston cautioned the design of the building and landscaping would be looked at closely. Canesse said she would work with city planners to ensure approval of the final plans.

• The city council also voted 4-0 to approve a special amendment use for Gary Walzak, owner of Pub 88, 436 12th St. W., to install a sushi bar inside the establishment.

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