ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Residents of a St. Petersburg neighborhood are frustrated with a lack of enforcement on a property they claim has been covered with piles of debris for more than a year.
City records indicate Jason Johns currently owes more than $9,000 in liens and fines in connection with code violation complaints dating back to last year.
Andrew Watts, who lives across the street, said the fines have had no impact on the piles of “junk.”
“Absolutely not,” Watts said when asked if it should take more than force a clean-up. “It’s frustration. It’s anger. Increase the fines,” Watts said. “Shorten the time thresholds for people to comply.”
Johns has been fined $700 and owes another $8,600 in liens that have been placed on his property.
According to an email to Watts from Councilman Richie Floyd, the city cannot utilize city staff for “physically clearing the property” until the liens reach $15,000.
Records show Johns is currently accruing $100 a day, which means that magic number will be reached next month.
“Two months more to look at this? It shouldn’t be two more minutes. Not two seconds,” Watts said. “What does anybody not see over there that is not completely disgusting? How can this possibly continue?
Johns claims strangers have contributed to the mess on his property.
“Some of it is from that side yard, pulling over and throwing away,” Johns said.
Neighbors provided pictures they claim show John’s allegedly dumping items from his car into his yard.
Johns said he is trying to clean it up but adds stress from the complaints to the city, and family issues have slowed him down.
“I had a couple of deaths in my family in the past year and I’m a little bit of a hoarder. I admit that,” Johns said. “It’s too much stress in my life. It’s not right. I’m a good person. I’m not a person that’s out robbing and killing people.”
St. Petersburg Public Information Officer Erica Riggins said city leaders “understand the neighborhood frustrations.”
“There has been significant code enforcement activity regarding this property,” Riggins said. “Our team is diligently working through the legal processes available to force the homeowner to bring the violations into compliance.”
According to Riggins, the $15,000 threshold could be passed at a January 23 Code Enforcement Board hearing when another $7,000 in liens could be certified against Johns’ property.
Watts and other neighbors are calling for changes in city enforcement to prompt quicker action by the city when other cases like this one arise.
“It’s not rocket science. They need to change this. It should not take this long,” Watts said. “This is a pretty well kept, highly maintained neighborhood. There’s not a house here that looks like that.”