New Lee County ordinance to monitor abandoned property
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS, Fla.-
Right now, there are 18,000 abandoned and foreclosed houses in Lee County alone!
That's a concern because the Lee County Sheriff's Office says it's been one of the main reasons for neighborhood blight, criminal activity and declining property values.
With government cut backs, there aren't as many code enforcement officers as there used to be.
So, volunteers got some training on how to write up reports and hold irresponsible home owners accountable.
Now those activists want to take it a step further.
They're proposing an ordinance that would put individuals and banks in the hot seat.
George Szmanski lives in Lehigh and volunteers for code enforcement.
He says "there's over 18,000 units out there that are either abandoned or foreclosure... they're not being maintained."
George writes up properties with problems that include broken windows, graffiti, trash and overgrown weeds.
Its a big welcome sign for criminals to take what they want and terrorize the neighborhood.
He added that for one house "people broke inside of it... they took cabinets, toilets and they just closed the door and went away."
Thats why people like george are pushing for a new ordinance which would make owners of abandoned property register with the county.
Its called the vacant property registration ordinance.
It would require a 200 dollar fee upfront.
The money would be used to help with maintenance, landscaping and home owners association fees.
Whether its a bank or an individual, the property owner would also have to register their contact information with law enforcement.
The florida bankers association is fighting the initiative, they don't want the county to adopt it.
They say its overreaching and ambiguous.
However, community coordinator for the sheriffs office, andrea adams, has been working with george on cleaning up blighted neighborhoods.
She explains the new ordinance would clear up the confusion and answer the most urgent questions like "weather these homes were actually vacant? actually foreclosed on, or weather the bank actually owns them? whose responsible whose accountable for these homes?"
The county commission is expected to host a public forum on the proposed ordinance in august.
If you want to take a look at the ordinance it's posted on our on our website.