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A quarter million in code fines later, expansive Lutz home razed

TAMPA — After rotting for years and racking up more than a quarter million dollars in code violations, an unfinished five-bedroom, five-bathroom house in Lutz came down Monday, compliments of the county.

The house at 3319 Crenshaw Lake Road — 8,741 square feet overall, with 5,436 square feet of it planned under air conditioning — was believed to be one of the largest houses ever demolished by Hillsborough County Code Enforcement.

It had been condemned because of its danger, according to Hillsborough County spokeswoman Michelle Van Dyke.

Rain spread mold and rot in the interior and in the wooden frame on the upper of its three floors, county officials said, potentially making it unsafe for those who tried to enter the unsecured property.

"That's an accident waiting to happen for anyone trying to get into the house," Van Dyke said.

Not much is known about the house's owner, why it was built or why it was abandoned.

Property records list County Squire Estate Custom Homes LLC as the owner. State records show the corporation is inactive. A man listed in the records as both its manager and registered agent, John P. Whitehead, could not be reached by phone for comment Monday.

County code enforcement program manager Robin Caton said the struggling housing market may have been why construction was discontinued.

"It was being built during a time when the market started going down," he said.

A construction permit for the house expired in February 2009, and code violation fines started in July 2010, ultimately totaling more than $254,000. The county filed a lien against the property.

Caton said the county talked to an attorney for the property at one time but had not been able to contact the owner since.

Code enforcement received complaints of people illegally dumping items such as couches on the property, he said.

It cost the county about $24,000 to have a contractor demolish the structure, Caton said. "I know we could take down multiple homes for that price," he said.

Michele Clifford, who lives across the street from the house, said she had concerns about the property being unsecured.

"People would go in and out, speed away," she said.

Mostly, however, it was an unpleasant sight from her front yard. Three houses in the neighborhood were empty at the time, she said. A family moved into one, another looks like it'll soon be filled, but the unfinished house just languished.

"(It) looked moldy, rotting from the inside," Clifford said. "It's just an eyesore."

A quarter million in code fines later, expansive Lutz home razed 03/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 10:57pm]
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