Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco targets repeat offenders with new code enforcement tactic

Basil A. Almamluk is the owner of the closed Pure Gas station in Holiday, which has emerged as a poster child for a new "high return'' county code enforcement effort. The property on Mile Stretch Drive is littered with discarded furniture and other trash. [Photo courtesy of Pasco County Sheriff's Office]

Basil A. Almamluk is the owner of the closed Pure Gas station in Holiday, which has emerged as a poster child for a new "high return'' county code enforcement effort. The property on Mile Stretch Drive is littered with discarded furniture and other trash. [Photo courtesy of Pasco County Sheriff's Office]

HOLIDAY — The out-of-date and overpriced gasoline cost on the sign outside — $2.69 for a gallon of regular — is the first indication that business isn't booming.

Inside, some of the shelves are still stocked. But outside, a tray of five dirty plastic milk bottles sits on a window sill. There is an ashtray on the ground in front of the door that is more board than glass. A for-sale sign near the road greets passersby, as do piles of abandoned living room furniture scattered along the west side of the property. Nine sofas and recliners, two television sets, assorted cushions and a mattress have turned the shuttered store from Pure Gas to pure garbage.

"I'm sure nobody in that community who drives by there is happy,'' said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

The Pure Gas store is on Mile Stretch Road in Holiday, and it has emerged as a poster child for a new county code enforcement crackdown. The effort will trigger court injunctions and nuisance lawsuits from the county more quickly than the standard practice of issuing citations and filing administrative complaints to the Pasco County Construction Enforcement Board to enforce its codes.

"While these systems generally are effective, some violations (or violators) are more likely to respond from different approaches such as: injunctions, revocation of certificates of occupancy, daily fines, demolition of structures, (and) suites to abate nuisances,'' senior assistant county attorney Kristi Sims told commissioners in an April 17 memo.

The county calls it "high-return enforcement.'' Basically, it begins legal proceedings more quickly against repeat offenders to stem the spread of blight.

"It's a matter of looking at the bigger picture and see where we can have more lasting results,'' Marc Bellas, director of the county's performance development team, told county commissioners.

For instance, the county could prosecute the owner of multiple substandard rental units rather than using the current practice of handling each property individually, Bellas said.

Unsafe housing conditions likely will shoot to the top of the priority list, but places like Pure Gas won't escape attention either because vacant commercial property also will be a focus.

There is a lot stuff drawing complaints. Code compliance officers responded to more than 15,000 complaints last year and issued citations 439 times. Courtesy warnings and then written warnings are more typical. The complaints can run the gamut from an unkempt lawn or someone parking their boat in their driveway for too long to a business with an illegal sign or the extreme cases like vacant property turning into a makeshift garbage dump.

Starkey wanted county crews to clean up the Pure Gas site, but asking the public to tend to private property isn't the aim of the high-return enforcement.

"I'm really frustrated we can't do anything about the pile of garbage he's collecting, and it's a magnet for more garbage,'' Starkey said.

The owner of the shuttered station is no stranger to law enforcement and the county's legal staff. Basil A. Almamluk, 54, of New Port Richey is the owner, according to arrest reports, though his last name also is spelled as "Alialmamluk'' on property and civil court records.

The county has filed a nuisance abatement suit against him, and, over the past three years, he has been accused of possession and sale of a controlled substance, living on the site in an RV even though it wasn't zoned for residential use, accumulation of debris, discharging polluted water, having an overgrown lot, battery, not having the required county business license and having an illegal sign.

Multiple attempts by the Tampa Bay Times to reach Almamluk were unsuccessful. A telephone number listed for him in court records was not answered and did not accept voice mail messages.

The most recent cases — accumulation of debris and the illegal, abandoned sign — came in early April after Almamluk was arrested on a warrant, accused of failing to appear in court to answer earlier complaints filed in January and March. After posting bail, Almamluk was charged with battery after he was accused of getting into a dispute with the employees of Brad's Bail Bonds, according to Sheriff's Office records. Those charges are pending.

Almamluk and co-owner Ezzaher Bouchra also a face foreclosure suit that says they defaulted on the $325,000 mortgage agreement used to buy the property in 2009.

Meanwhile, the trash pile continues to grow.

"The owner obviously has little or no regard for county ordinances concerning maintenance of his property,'' Sims told commissioners.

The typical enforcement effort of issuing a citation already occurred twice this year, "and you see what it looks like,'' said Sims. "It certainly needs more attention.''

Pasco targets repeat offenders with new code enforcement tactic 05/24/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations


    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case


    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings


    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss


    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight


    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102