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Date of Issue: January 30, 2008

City answers civil suit

The city of Holmes Beach maintains that two property owners who sued over a code enforcement action against them lack grounds for their complaint.

Last fall, the city took action against Diane and William Sorg, out-of-state owners of a duplex at 3707 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.

The code enforcement case dates 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 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 insure 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.”

Last fall, after learning that the $30-a-day fine associated with the property had accumulated through May 2007 to a $28,000 debt for the Sorgs, city commissioners instructed their attorney to begin foreclose proceedings.

A complaint for foreclosure of lien was stamped Nov. 21, 2007, at the Manatee County Courthouse in Bradenton. The complaint read, “Defendants have not paid any of the fine which had accumulated to approximately $28,000, which remains due and owning.”

Additionally, the complaint written by attorney Richard Groff said, “The city is entitled to a reasonable attorney’s fee and all costs incurred.”

Next the Sorgs filed a complaint against the city challenging the city’s fine and the lien against the property.

The city’s answer, filed Jan. 14 at the courthouse, states, “Plaintiff’s action is essentially an attempt to reverse the action of the code enforcement board which imposed a fine for failure to bring their property into compliance and to contest the city’s denial of a building permit. 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.