“Pasco code enforcement tactic zeroes in on blight”

“Pasco code enforcement tactic zeroes in on blight”

Photo: Pasco County
“The tents, blue tarp, stacks of pallets, barbed wire and general junky look at the side of Hicks Road in Hudson are gone.

The business, called Home Discount Depot, popped up in August 2017, with an illegal sign and without proper zoning permits.

‘This purported to be a retail hardware store,’ said Kristi Sims, senior assistant county attorney for Pasco County. ‘It’s not there anymore.’

Neither are the dilapidated buildings that had been the USA Flea Market on U.S. 19 near Bayonet Point nor the ramshackle trailer homes at the Lazy Breeze Mobile Home and RV Park outside Dade City.


They are some of the high-profile cases handled by Pasco County since it created its ‘high-return enforcement’ strategy a year ago. The tactic targets the owners of blighted structures or repeat violators of the county codes that are intended to preserve the public’s health, safety and welfare…

Of the cases deemed worthy of high-return enforcement, the county determined 185 buildings were blighted or damaged beyond repair. Owners knocked down 63 of their structures. That is what happened at USA Flea Market. But the county demolished 55 other buildings and put liens on the properties, hoping to recoup its costs when the properties are sold. Forty-three demolition cases are pending.

Among other highlights:

…Following Hurricane Irma, the county focused on illegal or so-called non-conforming pole signs that pre-dated the regulations requiring new businesses to install low-to-the-ground monument signs. Ten owners removed the signs or converted them to monuments, and 16 others signed agreements to do likewise. Forty-six others repaired the existing signs.

That information reignited a debate among commissioners on the merits of the county’s sign rules. Commissioner Jack Mariano said new businesses on U.S. 19 should be allowed elevated signs on poles, but [Commissioner] Starkey argued the visual clutter meant passersby couldn’t differentiate one store from another.

‘No one is proud of how (U.S.) 19 looks,’ said Starkey.

The sign debate might be irrelevant to new customers, suggested County Administrator Dan Biles, who moved to Pasco County a year ago.

He pointed out that he found businesses through internet searches for customer reviews and driving directions via his smart phone, not storefront signs.”

— C.T. Bowen,Tampa Bay Times
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Vacant store front window covering: “Miami Beach cataloging storefront vacancies”

Vacant store front window covering: “Miami Beach cataloging storefront vacancies”

Photo: R.E. Miami Beach,City of Miami
“Miami Beach Commissioners are turning their attention to the number of vacant storefronts in the City. Ricky Arriola, Chair of the Commission’s Finance Committee, started a lively conversation on Facebook recently when he posted an article from the New York Post about the idea of a vacancy tax floated by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio…

Miami Beach Economic Development Manager Michelle Huttenhoff said San Jose recently passed an ordinance calling for a storefront vacancy registry. ‘After 60 days you have to self-register an address as a vacant property and then put forth your plan of action to recruit a new tenant or if there’s a permit’for construction, she said. ‘I believe for them it’s about 300 days if there hasn’t been progress made they invoke an annual registration fee.’In addition to supporting the program, Huttenhoff said the fees also go into a business incentive program to support small businesses…

With a vacancy registry, she said, City staff and Chambers of Commerce can help attract businesses to vacant properties…

Currently, Huttenhoff responded, vacant storefronts are required ‘to have an opaque window covering and then if they don’t have that then they are able to purchase the blue window wraps from the city but they do need to have a covering.”

Sarah Saunders, Assistant Director for Code Compliance, said while officers were helping with the vacancy count, they checked on properties with open violations for compliance and also found new violations on other properties. ‘This is something that we’ve been working on for quite some time,’she said. Code Compliance has done ‘blitzes’ along Washington Avenue to ensure compliance and they continue to monitor the vacant storefronts.”

— Susan Askew, R.E. Miami Beach
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Legal: Homosassa chickee hut “Revitalization of KC Crump site slowed by permit problems”

Legal: Homosassa chickee hut “Revitalization of KC Crump site slowed by permit problems”

Photo: Citrus County Chronicle
“A development group plans to breathe new life into the old KC Crump restaurant property along the shores of the Homosassa River by turning it into a relaxing spot where people can eat, enjoy outdoor music acts and escape the heat…

Crumps Landing, as envisioned, would include a 3,000-square-foot thatched structure that — depending on who you talk to — is either a tiki hut or a ‘chickee hut.’…

But before anything can open, the applicant has to address several areas of concern outlined by the county on the developers’ submitted permit application.

After learning something was being built on the site, County Building Director Carl Jones said he sent an inspector out in March to look at it and discovered work was being done without a permit and that underground electrical lines were being installed. Jones said he told the builders to stop work and go through the proper permitting channels.

After meeting with Growth Management Director Mark Green, Dan Williams and Byron Rogers of Crumps Landing LLC, Jones said he explained that a formal permit application was needed.

Williams said he believed he was exempt from the from Florida building-code requirements because the hut was to be a ‘chickee hut,’ and being built by the Seminole Indian tribe. State law does exempt such huts from code requirements if built by the Seminole or Miccosukee tribes.”

— Matthew Beck,Citrus County Chronicle
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LEGAL: Chickee hut? “St. Pete Beach to seek definition of chickee hut from State Building Commission”

LEGAL: Chickee hut? “St. Pete Beach to seek definition of chickee hut from State Building Commission”

Photo: NBC-2.com
“What’s in a name? St. Pete Beach commissioners learned a tiki hut by any other name, such as a chickee hut, can be built without a permit.

During the city’s regular May 8 commission meeting, City Attorney Andrew Dickman told commissioners some residents are using a loophole in state law, governing building codes, to install structures known as chickee huts and avoid local building permit requirements.

Chickee is the word Seminole Indians used for house. In the 1990s the federal government signed a treaty with Native American Indian tributes allowing them to build their traditional chickee huts exempt from local building regulations. The move was designed as part of reparations afforded Indian tribes mistreated by the nation and settlers in the 1800s…

Dickman told commissioners during a code enforcement hearing he became aware of how some residents used the loophole in the law to circumvent local permit requirements.

A resident built a chickee hut with a tiled bar, chairs and electricity, much more like the modern day tiki hut, and was taken before code enforcement.

However, when the homeowner appealed to the Florida Building Commission, asking for a declaratory judgment that the chickee hut was exempt from permit requirements, the structure was granted approval, Dickman said.

The city attorney advised St. Pete Beach was never notified of the state hearing, so it had no opportunity to appeal the decision. In addition, there was no requirement on the part of the homeowner to notify the Building Commission that the chickee hut was part of a local code enforcement action.

He said if the city were able to appeal it would have noted that the structure in question does not meet the spirit or letter of the law.

The Florida Building Code states; ‘Chickees considered exempt are constructed by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida or the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The term ‘chickee’ means an open-sided wooden hut that has a thatched roof of palm or palmetto or other traditional materials, and that does not incorporate any electrical, plumbing, or other nonwood features.’ …

Florida cities have tried different methods of regulating chickee huts. Some cities like Boynton Beach point out ‘a chickee hut is exempt from the permitting process, but not exempt from zoning district regulations.’

Boynton Beach requires ‘an applicant to request a zoning verification letter. With the zoning verification request the applicant must submit a site plan or survey, with scaled dimensioning of the structure, ‘along with proof that the builder is a member of either the Miccosukee or Seminole Tribe…

Marco Island permits ‘chickees in rear yard setback areas by the approval of a conditional use permit…Chickees may not be used as a carport, storage shed, boat shelter, or the like.’

In Miami Dade County, Chickees require a zoning improvement permit, established to ensure that certain land uses now exempt from the Florida Building Code remain in compliance with the zoning code.

Pinellas County defines chickees, exempt from state and local building codes, ‘as constructed by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida or the Seminole Tribe of Florida … an open-sided wooden hut that has a thatched roof of palm or palmetto or other traditional materials, and that does not incorporate any electrical, plumbing, or other nonwood features.’

St. Pete Beach commissioners agreed with the city attorney’s suggestion to ask the Building Commission for its declaratory interpretation of chickee hut that can be utilized by the city, such as whether it can include a bar area, chairs and electricity…

— Mark Schantz, Tampa Bay Newspapers
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Advertising on Cars: “Digital license plates coming soon to Florida, company claims”

Advertising on Cars: “Digital license plates coming soon to Florida, company claims”

Video: ABC Action News
“Digital license plates are about to go mainstream in Florida, and it could help save taxpayers millions.

According to NBC News, a company called Reviver Auto has developed electronic license plates, dubbed Rplates.

Rplates are now on sale in California, and will be available in Arizona, Texas and Florida in the near future…

With a click of a button, you could have your favorite sports team, show off your alma mater or support your favorite cause.

Each plate’s unique characters are constantly displayed…

If given permission advertisers could display ads on someone’s tag. The feature is available while a car is parked.

According to the state, Section 320.06(5), Florida Statutes [leg.state.fl.us], allows the department to evaluate technologies for alternative license plates; however, no pilot program is currently in place.

The company hopes to have the pilot program in place in Florida later this year.

Privacy/safety concerns

NBC News interviewed Dr. Ashraf Gaffar, an assistant professor of engineering at Arizona State University, who studies automotive technologies. He agreed that digital license plates could offer some benefits but cautioned that they might introduce other problems.

‘Driver distraction is one of the biggest killers of teenagers in the United States,’ said Gaffar, who is not affiliated with Reviver. ‘Having one more thing to look at while we’re driving will take our eyes off the road for a second or two more, which will have some side effects.’

Gaffer also warned that electronic plates could be ‘fertile ground for hackers,’ and could raise privacy concerns. He said more research is needed before the digital plates go mainstream.

— Andrew Ruiz, ABC Action News
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