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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dunedin code enforcement board fines Fenway Hotel owner over unsafe violations

DUNEDIN -- Remember last week's story about a judge appointing a Tampa firm to clean up trash, graffiti and other code violations at the old Fenway Hotel and to secure the property against squatters and other trespassers?

In a new development this week, Dunedin's Code Enforcement Board decided to start charging the hotel's owner $250 each day that the most egregious of violations cited in a 23-page violation notice from January aren't resolved. City officials say the violations (we're talking open and poorly secured doors and windows, shards of broken glass, and nails sticking out of fallen boards) are a direct threat to public safety.

The move introduced a potentially tricky situation for city officials, for whom -- as Dunedin planning director Greg Rice put it -- the "chance of seeing anything (in this case) is slim to none."

That's because hotel owner George Rahdert already owes at least $10.8 million in loans, interest and other fees to PNC Bank, which is foreclosing on the waterfront landmark. Furthermore, Rahdert says he is already deeply in debt after spending thousands of dollars maintaining the property until earlier this year.

"The city would not be able to enforce its lien unless that mortgage foreclosure case went away," said City Attorney Tom Trask. "And we could be more than second in line. We could be way down the line."

For their part, city officials say a cleanup of graffiti, trash and signs of neglect - not collecting fines - is their ultimate goal for the property, which is blighting the neighborhood.

Fortunately for them, the court-appointed receiver, Franklin Street Management Services, is already in the process of cleaning up the property.

Dunedin code inspector Michael Kepto told the code enforcement board that the receiver expects to mow and trim the landscaping by Friday. The firm also plans to replace broken windows on the front of the hotel and board up windows not visible from the front with white or neutral-colored wood.

PNC is bankrolling the cost of the repairs. Trask said banks typically either ask the court to add those costs to their judgment against the defendant or attempt to recoup their money through the ultimate sale of the property.

"We don't really care who brings (the property) into compliance," Trask said. "Once it's brought into compliance, the fines would stop."

--Keyonna Summers, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Thursday, June 7, 2012 4:57pm]


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