County can't claim credit for partial clean-up of Valrico proper - WFLA News Channel 8

County can't claim credit for partial clean-up of Valrico property

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VALRICO, FL (WFLA) -

Not much has been done by Hillsborough County, but there is some progress to report on a property in Valrico that has run up nearly $1 million in code violation fines.

Neighbors wondered what it would take to clear 1602 Main Street of overgrown trees, weeds and brush that have been growing for over 10 years.

On Friday, it took 5-and-a-half hours of heavy ground clearing equipment donated by the Seminole Indian tribe, to chop, mow, chip, and tear down more than a decade of neglect.

"They got some of the jungle down, which will help control the wild animals that are there," neighbor Ed Tewmey said.

By the time Tewmey started complaining to the county about the property back in 2004, code enforcement was well aware of it.

In 2003, the county started issuing code violations to owners Richard and Glenda Smith for overgrowth, as well as accumulations of junk, trash and debris.

Those fines have grown to nearly $1 million.

Code Enforcement Manager Jim Blinck contends Florida's Homestead Law prevents the county from even stepping foot on the property to clean it up or foreclose on it.

"The fine is just to motivate the property owner to come into compliance with local ordinances," Blinck said.

Tewmey argues that approach has so far failed.

"They made a statement that they put that on as an incentive for the people to clean up the place. Well if everyone thought like these did over here, no one would clean up their place. They'd just say, well, fine me all you want to, and that's what it looks like the situation is here," Tewmey complained.

Richard Smith works for the Seminole Indians. Dan Harris, who identifies himself as the chaplain for the Seminole Police Department said the effort being put forth by the tribe was to assist the Smiths.

A good deal of the overgrowth is gone. But now neighbors have a bird's eye view of dilapidated buildings, temporary storage containers with weeds and vines growing all over them and piles of junk and debris that litter the property.

"It's like a junk pile. You see pipe, wire, everything just piled up. People come over here and I can see why they dump stuff off, because they think it is a trash dump here," Tewmey added.

County commissioners discussed the 8 On Your Side story and problem at 1602 Main Street at their meeting on March 19th. Nearly two weeks later, Tewmey has yet to hear from the county.

Tewmey says he wonders if $1 million in fines and a possible health and safety violation at 1602 Main Street doesn't bring county action, what will?

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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