tampabay.com

Home draws multiple code citations and neighbors' ire

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published April 17, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - Residents in a multiblock area of Greater Pinellas Point say they are tired of ongoing code violations by one of their neighbors.

They say they have complained to the city for at least two years, but with each correction, new violations seem to appear. Mostly, they involve cars.

Residents have invited Deputy Mayor Mike Dove and Tom Edwards, assistant director of codes compliance assistance, to a Tuesday night meeting to discuss the problems at 6212 13th St. S.

John Bagg, president of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association, said he has been receiving complaints about Carol Robinson's property since he was elected a year ago. Robinson, however, feels she's being harassed.

"Everything codes has asked me to do, I've done my best to comply with," she said.

"I could see if I was creating some sort of problem. I get up. I go to work. I stay home. I am really beginning to wonder what's going on. I'm not planning to go anywhere, but I wish they would quit harassing me. It's kind of overwhelming me right now," she said sobbing over the phone.

The complaints have been many.

Bagg, the neighborhood association president, said residents are fed up with the car repair business they say Robinson and her family have been operating at the home. They said cars in various forms of disrepair have been scattered across Robinson's lawn and driveway and the property of a next door neighbor who lives in England. Neighbors also have said young men race the vehicles through the once quiet community. Further, Bagg said, residents said the commercial vehicles Robinson drives for a living often clog the street.

"First it was a bus, like a two-story bus. After a while, the bus was gone. Then there was one limo, then two. I've heard people say three," said neighborhood resident Delores Williams.

"The garbage cans would overflow. The house didn't look the way it looks now. It looked like it was falling down."

Neighbors became concerned about the property next door, 6224 13th St. S.

"I noticed that the cars at 6224 had writing in the windows, like a used car lot," Williams said.

Bagg said he is trying to help solve the problem.

"Part of my interest here is being able to get code enforcement, police, fire inspectors, all those folks, working together. The police say, if we don't see it, we can't cite it. But I say, if you don't look, you won't see it," said Bagg, who has advised residents to sign a petition requesting speed bumps and to flood the codes compliance assistance department with calls.

Department director Sally Eichler said that Robinson was cited for a series of violations. They were for inoperative vehicles, using the property for a prohibited business, peeling paint, storage of motor vehicle parts, junk and rubbish, exceeding the limits of a hobby, inadequate sod and ground cover and parking commercial equipment in a residential area.

When the Code Enforcement Board met on March 23, some violations had been corrected, Eichler said. The board gave Robinson until today to correct the remaining problems.

Robinson will have to appear before a special magistrate on April 26 and could face $50 a day in fines, if she fails to meet the deadline, Eichler said.

Robinson, 51, said she is doing her best and has put on a new roof and painted her home. She's a widow, she said, and at one time had two sons and two nephews, all adults, sharing her home. They each owned a vehicle, she said. Robinson said only a disabled son and one nephew now live with her.

She conceded that things got a bit out of hand when she was doing over-the-road charters in her job as a driver of commercial vehicles. Her nephew was indeed repairing cars at the home, but that stopped about a month and a half ago, she said.

"As soon as I found out it wasn't allowed, we put a stop to that," she said.

Any repairs neighbors have seen since are for the family's cars, which are all old, Robinson said.

"The newest one I have is 12 years old, a '93 Pontiac," she said.

Her nephew owns the battered black and white Camaro in her driveway, she said. The green Camaro belongs to a son. The Lincoln without a tag belongs to another son, but he is getting rid of it, she said.

Eichler said it's not as easy as residents might think to cite a homeowner for inoperable or unslightly vehicles.

"If it has a current tag and the tires are pumped up and it has all the parts on it that are observable, then there's not anything we can do about it," she said.

"It could actually be missing doors, but it would still be street legal."

Bagg, the neighborhood association president, said for the past six months, he and board member Gerry Horah have been taking photographs of Robinson's property.

"Within the last week, I saw nine cars parked out there, which is not typical family activity," he said.

"I think what they have done is try to restrict their activities to nights and weekends. I know they park their limousines in the parking lot at the bowling alley."

After being cited by the city for parking the limousines in front of her house, Robinson began parking them nearby at the Skyway Shopping Center, 62nd Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S, Bagg said. When forced to move them from there, she began parking them at the closed bowling alley next door, he said.

Eichler said she understands neighbors' frustration.

"I do not blame them. They believe that we are the only solution to the problem. While we have some good tools, we don't have the type of tools that will permanently correct that behavior," she said.

"These are the cases that are the rare exceptions that go so far out from what the community standard is."