Bradenton's flag house owner ready to battle code enforcement June 17

myoung@bradenton.comJune 5, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Brent Greer's quaint, century-old home on Riverview Boulevard -- now adorned with a painted-on American flag -- is among a few homes built in the area before the rush to construct multimillion-dollar homes along the Manatee River.

The old home faces at least nine counts of city code enforcement violations. Greer's solution to resolve one of the city's concerns -- that his house was not painted to city code standards -- was to depict the flag while painting his house.

Since the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday first reported on Greer's dispute with the city, Greer said he has received overwhelming community support.

He grew up in the house and now owns it along with his wife and seven adopted children, who all have found themselves at the center of a fight with the city that stemmed from a fallen Christmas tree. A code enforcement officer responded to Greer's home on the anonymous complaint in February.

According to Volker Reiss, code compliance manager, anonymous complaints are responded to as part of city policy.

"There was at least one phone call received on Feb. 17, and I believe there was a second call," said Reiss, who noted that had the complaint been filed via letter or email, the city would retain a record of it.

"But since it was a phone call, we don't even ask because it doesn't matter," said Reiss. It matters to Greer, who said he's being denied his right to face his real accuser considering he now faces a $250 per day fine, which Greer believes is based on a random complaint from someone who just didn't like the look of his house.

"I have the right to face my accuser," he said. "What I'm most angry about is the way the city has handled this. If they would have just come to me and pointed out what they had a problem with and say, 'Hey, how long do you think it would take for you to do this and that?' then it would have been a better way to go. I'm just blown away that my house is being attacked like this."

The city outlined the code violations in a two-page, nine-count complaint letter to Greer, dated March. It includes violations concerning painting and pressure washing. Three more cite missing window screens and a window system Greer designed to ensure fresh air can flow into the home without letting his dogs out. The complaint also cites rotting roof decking and loose railings, an accumulation of trash on his property and wiring not within a conduit.

Greer said two of the city's allegations regarding the railings and debris were addressed before the code enforcement officer returned for a post-inspection to ensure the Christmas tree -- which was the original complaint -- was removed.

"So these complaints within this sworn affidavit that requires me to go in front of the code enforcement board are lies," said Greer. "This guy signed this affidavit after these issues were already addressed."

Greer said he's not sure how the city concluded he has any issues with his roof because "it was never inspected."

One message left for the Herald complained of Greer's decoration style during holidays, which the person called "tacky." Greer said there is good reason for his enthusiastic approach to holidays.

"We got our oldest daughter when she was 10," said Greer. "She had been homeless all her life and never even knew what a Christmas tree was. So yeah, I go all out with Christmas trees and other decorations for that very reason."

The Greers also are foster parents and try to ensure every child in the home has a reason to be excited on holidays. Reiss previously told the Herald the city will not reinspect an alleged violation once a hearing has been scheduled until the day before the hearing, at which time code enforcement will determine if Greer has brought his home into their definition of compliance. The hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. June 17 in the City Hall chambers.

In the meantime, the family has been inundated with support from friends and family.

"I'm loving it," said Greer. "It has shown me that most people still support this country."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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