WIMAUMA, Fla. (WFLA) – When Scott Nessmith bought his 20-acre farm off Andrews Road in Wimauma in 2017, he says he never imagined that five years later access to his property would be cut off by a disgruntled neighbor.
But that’s what happened after Ricky Goodson of Goodson Farms put up “no trespassing” signs along the legal easement that is shared by Goodson and three other other property owners, including Nessmith. When the farmers – and a homeowner who relies on the easement to get to his house – drove around those signs, Goodson placed heavy tractor parts and a water container in the easement to block vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“We never saw this coming,” Nessmith said. “[The easement] was part of the price of what we paid for the property.”
When reached by phone by Investigator Shannon Behnken, Ricky Goodson said the easement was not a legal easement and that the other property owners were trespassing on his land. When asked why it took five years before he mentioned his objection, he did not answer and said this issue is “fake news.”
When asked if he felt bad for the property owners and the hardships this has caused, this was Goodson’s response:
“They can fly in, they can tunnel in, but they can’t use my property.”
So, if there is a legal easement, how can it be legal to block it off?
Well – it isn’t legal, according to Hillsborough County officials. But it took prodding from Better Call Behnken before that determination was made. Goodson was cited by Hillsborough County Code Enforcement for a code violation and was told to more the barricade.
When the blocked-off property owners called Hillsborough County government and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, they say they were told it was a civil matter. So they turned to Better Call Behnken. Investigator Shannon Behnken obtained copies of deeds that show the legal easement that was first established in the 1960s, and was included in all three property owners’ 2017 deeds.
Behnken sent the deeds to county officials and, 48 hours later, code officials cited the owners of Goodson Farms – Ricky Goodson and his brother Michael Goodson – for obstructing the right-of-way easement. The violation instructs: “Remove the barrier consisting of tractor parts/obstructions from the easement which is preventing vehicle or pedestrian traffic. This section prohibits land locking the listed parcel/address/folio in this description.”
Days later, Goodson did move the barricade over but told code enforcement he still thinks he is right, and he plans to fence off the property.
Nessmith worried his cows could get sick or die. This time of year, Nessmith says he typically hauls in hay for his cattle twice a week. With access to his property blocked, he says a neighbor allowed him to come through their property with a tractor to deliver hay to get the cows by temporarily, but that hay was running out when he called Behnken.
“You can see their bones,” Nessmith said. “They’re not getting what they should get. He’s made it impossible for us to feed our cows.”
Meanwhile, retired Tampa firefighter Doug Barns – who moved to this farm for peace and quiet – is fed up. He and his wife could no longer drive to the dream house they recently built.
“It’s wrong, it’s just wrong,” Barnes said. “Do bullies rule the day? I mean this guy is just doing this because he can.”
Barnes says in the beginning he was able to scoot the barrier over just enough at first to barely get his truck through. Then, he says, Goodson added a water container, making it impossible to pass. To get around that, Barnes and his wife, both in their 70s, were forced to crawl through barbed wire on the backside of his property and walk home through a field.
A neighbor allowed the use of a makeshift gate from their property but only temporarily.
According to the code enforcement violation, Goodson could face “a fine of up to $1,000 per day for each new violation, and up to $5,000 per day for repeat violations, for each day the violation exists.”
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