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Date of Issue: September 16, 2009

Court dismisses suit against city

A county circuit court judge closed the case on a lawsuit filed by Holmes Beach property owners against the city.

The recent action allows for a judge to take up a foreclosure complaint by the city against William and Dianne Sorg, owners of a duplex in the 3700 block of Gulf Drive.

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, which occurred Nov. 21, 2007.

The Sorgs then filed a complaint against the city challenging the fine and the lien against their property.

But Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas, following a hearing in late August, granted a motion made by the city to dismiss the Sorg complaint.

In his order, Nicholas noted that the Sorgs did not avail “themselves of the right to appeal the final administrative order of the code enforcement board to the Holmes Beach City Commission within 30 days following its entry, in order to contest its validity.”

Nor did the Sorgs “seek certiorari review of any of the actions of defendant’s code enforcement board,” Nicholas wrote.

“As a consequence, the defendant’s motion to dismiss counts I-III of the … complaint on jurisdictional grounds is due to be granted.”