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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Code enforcement denies request for rehearing

The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board unanimously voted to deny property owners William and Dana Holmes' request to rehear their case.

At its November meeting, the board ruled that the Holmeses property at 107 47th St. violates the floodplain management ordinance due to the existence of a third unit located on the ground floor of the duplex.

The Holmeses were out of town and unable to attend the hearing, but the board proceeded with the case in November, resulting in the owners being required to remove any partitions, raise electrical outlets to four feet, remove plumbing fixtures and seal the pipes.

In a letter from William Holmes, a continuance was requested due to his ill health and inability at that time to travel to Florida from New Jersey.

Holmes suffered a stroke and says he thought the matter was resolved with a letter indicating his health problems from his doctor to the city.

Upon returning to Florida, Holmes retained the services of attorney Chuck Webb and filed a motion for rehearing so that he and his wife could present evidence supporting their position that the ground-floor unit was permitted.

Webb argued before the board that his client deserves his "day in court" and that since the home was built more than 20 years ago, the only remaining witnesses with first-hand knowledge are his clients.

Webb said his client's ill health should have been sufficient grounds to grant the requested continuance and that it was "key for them to be here" for the hearing.

Although board members noted their sympathy for Holmes' ill health, members believe that he had sufficient time to obtain a representative to appear at the November hearing on his behalf.

Attorney Patricia Petruff, representing the city, objected to the Holmeses request, citing that there has been no indication of any new evidence available that wasn't already presented at the initial hearing.

Webb countered that given the length of time passed since the home was built many records have since gone missing or been destroyed, placing a hardship on Holmes.

Webb said he had evidence that a bank lien was filed in 1982 for an addition to the home and suggested that a bank would not authorize a loan without the appropriate building permits in place.

Petruff argued that the documents Webb procured as new evidence would not indicate what specific work was to be done. It could have been to enclose a porch, she said. And since the lien was only filed with the circuit court, not the city, she argued that it could have been done to protect the contractor. "Maybe nothing is missing, maybe there was no permit applied for," she said.

After little debate, the board consensus was that no new factual or compelling evidence was uncovered that may have had an impact on the November decision, and denied Holmes' request.

Holmes has 30 days to bring his property into compliance. A notice of appeal has already been filed with the Manatee County Circuit Court.

In other news, Code Enforcement Officer Walter Wunderlich reported that all cases involving Island businesses in violation of the city's Dumpster regulations are in compliance.

The disrepair at the Stefantos property at 524 74th St. has also been brought into compliance, he said.

Finally, Wunderlich notified the board that the city filed a lien against William and Diane Sorg's two-story residence at 3707 Gulf Drive, which was found in violation of the city's building codes for failing to maintain the balcony railing in July 2004.

According to Wunderlich, the Sorgs have brought the property into compliance. However, the repairs to the balcony were done without obtaining a permit from the city.

Wunderlich said he had notified Sorg that $900 in fines have accumulated already and he will continue to be fined $30 a day until he applies for a permit.