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City to look at capping code enforcement fines. But it could get tougher on foreclosures

Bradenton family loses chickens to flood and then code enforcement

A city official heard read about a Bradenton family who lost a chicken during Hurricane Hermine flooding. A conversation with code enforcement led to the removal of the rest. Bradenton Herald Mark Young
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A city official heard read about a Bradenton family who lost a chicken during Hurricane Hermine flooding. A conversation with code enforcement led to the removal of the rest. Bradenton Herald Mark Young

There could be some relief on the way for property owners with mounting fines and fees owed to the city of Bradenton for code violations.

The city’s code enforcement department is looking to cap fees for non-compliance but start pushing for foreclosures on properties that are accumulating fines and not being brought up to code.

A code enforcement officer can issue a ticket if code violations are not rectified. The matter could also be turned over to the Code Enforcement Board, but that is at the discretion of the officer.

Either way, the property owner could face fines in the process.

Under an ordinance that will soon be proposed to City Council, first-time violators’ fees would not exceed $75,000 while fees for repeat offenders would not exceed $150,000.

Bradenton City Council members agreed Wednesday that language in the possible new ordinance should be retroactive. Meaning no matter how much the fees have added up to over time or when the fees —which often increase daily until the property is deemed compliant with code — started, the fees would be capped at the respective levels.

Councilman Gene Gallo was one who supported adding the retroactive language and said, “If they owe us, they owe us.”

The code enforcement department’s priority is helping residents achieve compliance, according to the city.

But to put some force behind the ordinance, council members were in agreement that the city should also start foreclosing on properties with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines built up or those that have been in violation and accumulating fines for a number of years.

“We have not been aggressive at all about foreclosing on properties,” said Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley. “We want to start forcing the hand.”

They want the ordinance to “have some teeth,” city administrator Carl Callahan said, as the problem is usually with incidents that are being ignored.

“Right now, there’s no fear,” Callahan said.

After discussion with city council members, language for the proposed ordinance will be revised and brought back to council during a regular meeting.

The new ordinance proposal is expected to come before city council for a first reading in the coming weeks.

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