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Date of Issue: February 11, 2009

Conference date set in code dispute

Attorneys in the code enforcement dispute between the city of Holmes Beach and a Gulf Drive property owner will head to court Feb. 20 for a conference.

Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas set the conference date for a review of the status of the case brought by Dianne and William Sorg against the city.

At the hearing in the Manatee County Judicial Center, Nicholas said he hopes to get an indication of how long a trial might take and whether a jury or non-jury trial will be sought. He might also schedule the trial.

The case involves a lien filed by the city against a duplex at 3707 Gulf Drive and property owners the Sorgs, who then sued the city over the code enforcement action.

The city moved to foreclose on the property because the Sorgs owed about $28,000 in fines associated with a code enforcement ruling dating back to August 2003, when city officials expressed concern about a missing railing on a second-floor balcony on the building. Further review of the property had found that there was no rental license on file with the city, and later, the city raised concerns about repairs made to the property without a permit.

By the summer of 2004, the matter was before the city code enforcement board, which eventually made four findings of fact: Repairs at the duplex were made without a properly issued building permit; without a permit there was no inspection to ensure proper repair; the Sorgs had repeatedly been told they needed a permit; and “the city must maintain respect for its permitting system among all property owners.”

The code enforcement board levied a fine — $30 a day “for every day the violation continues on the property.”

After learning that the $30-a-day fine associated with the property had accumulated through May 2007 to a $28,000 debt, city commissioners instructed their attorney to begin foreclosure proceedings.

A complaint for foreclosure of lien was stamped Nov. 21, 2007, at the Manatee County Courthouse in Bradenton.     The Sorgs then filed a complaint against the city challenging the fine and the lien against their property.

The city’s answer stated, “Plaintiffs are stopped to bring this action on the grounds that any appeal of an order imposing fine or other such administrative action by defendant must be brought within 30 days.”

The order imposing the fine was dated Oct. 22, 2004.