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Port Richey council cuts fine from $89,061 to $4,000

PORT RICHEY — To city officials, the vacant lots at Formel Avenue and Springer Drive were an eyesore of trash and old vehicles.

So in 2005, city officials fined the property's owner, Robert Hall of New Port Richey, $570. The property got cleaned up, but the fine went unpaid. So a lien was placed on the lots at 6345 and 6319 Springer Drive, records show.

In January 2007, the city began to fine Hall $200 per day for additional code enforcement violations.

The grand total by this month: $89,061.56.

During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Hall and his attorney, Steve Booth, asked City Council to reduce the fine to $2,500, plus $1,514.54 for the city staff's time processing paperwork on the issue.

Hall recently brought his property into compliance, and is no longer being charged $200 per day. Even so, Booth told the council that the city's ordinance is unclear on what is and is not allowed on city property.

"I have driven up and down the streets, and I don't think anyone has a full understanding of that," Booth said.

Booth said mobile homes, recreational vehicles and a caboose have been removed from Hall's property, which is up for sale.

"If this council agrees to drop to your offer, and your sale doesn't go through, I think that's a problem," council member Mark Hashim told Booth. "If the council approves the offer, it has to be contingent on the sale."

Booth said regardless of the sale, the reduced fine would be paid.

After minimal discussion, the City Council voted 3-2 to reduce the fine, with a stipulation that it must be paid 30 days from today or the reduced fine will be withdrawn. Council members Perry Bean and Mark Hashim dissented.

In other business, the City Council voted 5-0 to pay consulting firm Lyle Sumek Associates Inc. of Heathrow $9,800 to help the city iron out its vision for the future. After interviewing the council, residents and business owners, the firm will implement a five-year plan and strategy for the city. The consulting firm's fee will come from Community Redevelopment Agency funds.

Port Richey council cuts fine from $89,061 to $4,000 05/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2008 5:28pm]
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