Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Lake Cox fence dispute continues in Port Richey City Hall

PORT RICHEY — Lucila Sullivan wells up with emotion when she talks about the fence she has erected around her waterfront back yard in a quiet tree-canopied neighborhood.

Sullivan's home sits at the end of Candlelight Court, a cul-de-sac on Lake Cox, a small pond that for decades has provided a pretty view and served as a neighborhood fishing hole. The homes have a New Port Richey address but are located in Port Richey city limits.

Sullivan said her husband died four years ago and shortly thereafter, a storm took down her old fence. Then problems started. She started seeing teens trespassing on her property to get to the water and witnessed drug use around her yard.

Her solution: a 6-foot solid white PVC fence to keep them out and protect her pool.

"I lost my husband. My husband died. I'm alone and I need my privacy," she said. "I'm just trying to live my life in peace."

But the new fence has caused new problems. One of her neighbors, Thomas Brown, says it violates city code because it obstructs his and his neighbors' view of Lake Cox. Brown also argues that all fences along canals or natural bodies of water can only be 4 feet tall and be made out of either chain link or decorative wrought iron, according to city code.

For months, Brown, 75, has railed at the City Council to act on his claim that the fence should come down. This week's council meeting was no different.

"What's going to be done about this fence? This goes on and on," Brown said.

Brown, however, appears to be fighting an increasingly bitter losing battle.

City Manager Tom O'Neill has granted Sullivan an exemption allowed by the city code for the fence to remain.

O'Neill said he, his staff and the city attorney have spent numerous hours investigating Brown's complaint and have determined the sight line to the water from his home — across the street from Sullivan and several homes up from the lake — has not been hampered by the fence.

In addition, city code allows for the city manager to waive the height requirement should a property owner demonstrate it would create a "potential health, safety, or welfare hazard." O'Neill said this applies to Sullivan's case because of her concerns about trespassers.

Another aspect of the case irks Brown: When he began complaining to the city, officials realized Sullivan didn't have a permit for the fence and granted her one after it was built. O'Neill's exemption also came after the fence's construction.

"I just can't understand it. What good are these ordinances if you don't enforce them?" Brown said.

O'Neill said permits are often issued when the city learns that a fence has been erected without one, as long as they are found to be in compliance. He added that 6-foot fences that are not chain link or wrought iron are all over Candlelight Court, but the city doesn't have the time or resources to be driving around sniffing out illegal fences.

"This appears to be a neighborhood dispute where it's impossible to make everyone happy," O'Neill said. "Some of those cases are not black and white — they have gray area. Sometimes you have to make a call, so I made the call. In my mind, the matter is concluded."

Brown is not satisfied and plans to continue the fight. At the meeting Tuesday, he had council members asking O'Neill to provide a written explanation of the city's stance.

Mayor Eloise Taylor said after the meeting she wants to see the legal review continue to address issues such as where Sullivan's property line is and whether Lake Cox is a natural body of water. (O'Neill contends it's a man-made lake.)

Council member Terry Rowe said he wants the case looked at thoroughly because he is concerned about the precedent O'Neill's decision might set. He said he is most troubled by a part of the fence that juts out several feet into the lake.

"I just don't want people lining up seeking exemptions to build fences that are not in compliance with the code because of this case," he said.

Comments
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely unable to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother,...
Updated: 2 hours ago
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly four hours before taking the field against his former team Friday, Rays outfielder Denard Span spoke admirably about the Minnesota Twins, their organization in general, even hometown icon Joe Mauer.But business is busin...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 10 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 20

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 15, Central 0
Updated: 11 hours ago
St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city said not one of the 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water released on Jan. 18 reached Tampa Bay.There was no mention of the waste released from the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility ever reaching the bay in the city’s notice...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Published: 04/20/18