PORT RICHEY — The city's plans to demolish a dilapidated mobile home park fronting U.S. 19 are on hold after the park's attorney questioned whether Port Richey gave his client proper legal notice.
The City Council held an appeal hearing Tuesday evening on its demolition order for the Port Richey Mobile Home Park, at 5501 Argon Court, at U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard.
City building official Bill Golberg showed council members pictures of crumbling mobile homes, trash piles, overgrown vegetation and exposed electrical wiring in the park during an inspection on May 1.
By May 24, the city had notified park owner Ron Asmar that the property had been slated for demolition under an ordinance passed in March, which allows the city to raze dilapidated buildings that pose a public nuisance. Since then, City Manager Tom O'Neill said he has received almost no contact from Asmar seeking a solution to clean up the park.
"At every step of the way we have tried to work with the property owner to try to get something done to cure this situation out in the field, and we simply have had nothing to work with," O'Neill said.
Asmar's Largo attorney, Steven Moore, agreed the mobile home park is in bad shape, saying "it's a terrible situation." But then he questioned whether the city followed noticing requirements in its demolition ordinance and asked for a 30-day extension for his client to clean up and secure the property.
Moore argued the city failed to provide specific instances of problems in the park and didn't properly note his client's right to appeal.
"Obviously the property was not in great shape. He doesn't deny that. What he is and was concerned about was here he operated a mobile home park for five years and not a single code violation," Moore said. "Then out of nowhere he received a notice that it needs to be demolished."
Instead, a "free-for-all" of looting and metal scrapping occurred when the city told park residents about the demolition order, which "made a bad situation worse," Moore told the council.
"In his words, it was the Wild West, everybody was out there, there was looting, he just couldn't keep control of what was going on," Moore said, describing Asmar's assessment of the situation.
City Attorney Joseph Poblick suggested the council postpone the appeal hearing so he could review Moore's arguments.
"Unfortunately, I just don't have everything at my fingertips to look into this right now," Poblick said.
Postponing the issue didn't sit well with council member Terry Rowe.
"The park is a mess at this point; it's been salvaged to pieces. I just don't feel comfortable leaving it another 30 days," Rowe said. But he later agreed to join the other council members in postponing the matter for a month.
With the 30-day extension, Moore said, his client has pledged to fence off the property and begin cleanup efforts. The entire council pressed for the park owner to make progress.
"We have a safety issue here, there's no doubt it ... needs to remedied," said Vice Mayor Bill Colombo.