DADE CITY — Two prominent couples came to court Friday after receiving citations for having illegal wells on their property.
The Avilas left with the charges dropped.
The Hernandezes pleaded not guilty and left with another court date.
Robert Avila, a former city commission candidate, and his wife, Lucy, had their citation dismissed after providing documentation that their well predated the city's 1982 ban.
According to City Clerk Jim Class, Robert Avila searched city records and found minutes from a decades-old commission meeting showing the previous property owner received permission to replace the well. City officials now consider the Avilas' well to be "grandfathered in," Class said.
City Commissioner Camille Hernandez and her husband, David, have also argued their well predates the ban. So far, they have not provided the documentation to convince city officials.
The well controversy bubbled up last fall, after Camille Hernandez and other commissioners suggested lifting the ban on private wells, which the city had outlawed to protect its water supply and utility revenue.
A few days later, documentation from 2007 surfaced at City Hall indicating the Hernandezes had a private well on their Bougainvillea Avenue property.
The commission later voted to uphold the ban, and city officials began researching the private wells in town to determine which ones might be in violation. The city sent letters to about a dozen possible violators. By the end of January, all of them provided proof that they either didn't have a well, or that theirs predated the ban.
Except the Avilas and Hernandezes.
After presenting their documentation, the Avilas left court Friday in the clear. The Hernandezes were told to report back June 4 for another hearing. If found in violation, they could face a fine of up to $500 plus administrative fees.
Camille and David Hernandez declined to comment.