Showdown over Bradenton 'flag house' will go forward with public hearing Tuesday

Code enforcement hearing will go forward

myoung@bradenton.comJune 16, 2014 

BRADENTON -- After Bradenton code enforcement officers determined Monday that the "flag house" on Riverview Boulevard failed inspection, a code enforcement hearing addressing the alleged violations will take place at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The home came to the attention of code enforcement in February when an anonymous complaint was filed regarding a Christmas tree left over from the holidays that had fallen over. That visit led to the house being cited for several "cosmetic violations."

Feeling his personal rights were

being violated, homeowners Brent Greer and his wife, Catherine, painted a replica American flag onto their house to signal to the city that "This is still America."

For the past few weeks, volunteers have joined with the Greers, who adopted their children out of foster care and still serve as emergency foster care parents, to bring the home up to what the code enforcement officials call "city standards."

Monday's inspection was to determine whether a hearing would be necessary. Greer said he learned the hearing would proceed via the media.

"We've been home all day and I was outside in my front yard at 8 a.m. this morning," he said Monday. "I saw two people drive by in a city code enforcement vehicle. They never even looked at me much less did an inspection. A little while later, I see the news reporting that the hearing is proceeding."

Code Compliance Manager Volker Reiss insists an inspection occurred, but acknowledged the city would not approach the Greers with the results of the inspection.

"That would potentially violate Mr. Greer's due process," said Reiss. "The results of the inspection will be presented at the hearing."

Reiss said the entire situation could have been resolved if Greer had taken the time to discuss his progress with the city.

"People that have an issue typically call me early in the process and say, 'This is what I still need to do,'" he said. "If people do that, then the city is usually very receptive. I can't read minds. I don't know what people want. If I have the flu, I call the doctor. I don't wait for the doctor to call me."

Greer pointed to Monday morning's driveby as the city's attempt at communication.

"This case is still a non-starter because there should be no such thing as an anonymous complaint," said Greer. "They know who did it and they know that it's more than likely some Realtor who would like to see us gone from our home because they don't like the way our house looks. They cite things like rotten wood, which is a lie. There has never been any rotten wood and I've showed everybody that."

The Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida, a foster care organization that first licensed the Greers, has rallied homebuilders and construction workers to help address the city's issues.

"I love them for what they are doing," said Greer. "But at the same time, I'm not interested in what the city has to say. If those people trying to do good want me to shut up at the hearing, it's going to be tough to do that, because I don't want to shut up about what I believe is corruption. If they put a lien on my house at $250 a day, then I'll view it as an attack on my children."

Reiss said he could not speak for what the code enforcement board will decide, but is confident the matter will be resolved in an amicable fashion, at least in the short term.

"Sometimes these things can be worked out even as close to five minutes before a hearing, if both sides are willing to talk," said Reiss. "In order for us to assist, people have to take a step, too. But I'm hopeful this will be resolved. The issue for Mr. Greer is a time issue. If he needs more time, then that is something that we almost always can work out."

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

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