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Gulfport residents decry code enforcement effort

GULFPORT — The city prides itself in being weird but a trashy appearance is unsettling for some residents.

So beleaguered city officials are finding it difficult to define "trashy" without some residents accusing them of violating their civil rights.

A recent move to ban sofas being used as lawn furniture — something most people consider unsightly — spurred a resident to question the nerve of city officials telling people what they can and can't sit on in their own yards.

Elected officials reacted to this push and pull by clamping down and easing up on rules as they try to please constituents.

The trickle down from that ever-changing stance has city employees feeling dizzy as they enforce city codes at the direction of the City Council.

But this is nothing new.

"Staff has heard both sides of this issue. It has been part of this community for the past 20 or 25 years," said City Manager Jim O'Reilly.

In those years, the city has wavered on letting code violations slide and enforcing them stringently, O'Reilly said.

At last week's council workshop, O'Reilly presented a list of residents' complaints and common problems that must be detailed in ordinances so the city has a basis for non-compliance.

Residents had objections to most of the suggestions.

"These are ideas we brought forward based on your direction," said Fred Metcalf, community development director.

"My staff worked hard with the city attorney to produce these," he said.

Despite Metcalf's frustration, the council took no action on the suggestions, deciding instead to hold a public hearing. A date will be announced later.

David Hastings was the lone council member to defend city employees on the continual flip-flopping on the issue.

"Regardless of any decision we make, we're making people unhappy," he said.

Several of those unhappy people told the council it was running people out of town with its attempts to clean up the city.

One of the proposed ordinances requires garbage cans to be stored out of street view.

Patricia Mallward, who lives on Gray Street, said no one in her house is healthy or strong enough to put the garbage cans behind the house.

"I'm an 80-year-old woman with a bad back. Do you want older folks to move out?" she asked.

Another ordinance would limit the number and location of vehicles parked in yards.

"I have six vehicles, all tagged and insured. I use three every day. Do I have to park them in my back yard?" asked Ron Dibucci, who also lives on Gray Street.

And, Pat Dunham, who lives on 53rd Street S, took aim at the city's attempts to keep indoor furniture from becoming outdoor furniture.

"Defining lawn furniture? Who thinks of this?" she asked.

A couple residents do want things cleaned up.

Al Davis, who lives on Clam Bayou, defended a more stringent enforcement.

"There is a groundswell of people who would like to see a basic cleanup," he said.

Bob Newcomb, who lives on Fremont Street S, is one of the founders of the Gulfport Neighbors group, formed, in part, to target and clean up sections of the city. He urged the council to stand firm on items that are clearly detrimental to the community like trash, filth and abandoned houses.

fast facts

The first targets

The most common codes the city wants teeth to enforce:

• Remove nonoperable/unregistered vehicles parked in the front yard

• Require edging of curbs or street/edges; trimming of landscaping

• Define lawn furniture and prohibit all others for outdoor use

• Define and limit the number of boats, trailers, recreational vehicles in front yards

• Shorten time debris can sit on curb from seven to three days

• Get garbage cans out of street view

• Specify how many and where recreation vehicles can be stored

Source: City Manager Jim O'Reilly

Gulfport residents decry code enforcement effort 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 5:53pm]
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