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Code violations soon to become a court matter

The County Commission is scrapping the code enforcement board in favor of direct court action.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- County residents who don't clean up their yards or who run illegal businesses out of their homes now must answer to a higher court.

Rather than bring those code violators before the county code enforcement board, county commissioners Tuesday approved an ordinance that will allow the county to take code violators directly to court.

Those who flout county officials' attempts to get them to obey the code -- and who don't show up for their court hearing -- could face a warrant for their arrest. Any defendant convicted of an ordinance violation could face a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

The county's decision to drop its code enforcement board in favor of a court of law was welcomed Tuesday by representatives from civic organizations, who have complained that their hands are tied when it comes to getting residents to obey simple county codes.

"We look at this ordinance as a beautification of Pasco County," said Jim Turtle, who is chairman of the Pasco Residents' Code Enforcement Steering Committee and president of the civic association that includes Tahitian Homes, Aloha Gardens and Tiki Village.

"We need to tell them to clean up their yards so we can attract businesses to Pasco County."

Eventually, the county will phase out its volunteer code enforcement board once it has heard all its pending cases.

In other action Tuesday, county commissioners agreed to start over with their adult entertainment ordinance. Commissioners adopted one ordinance last year that restricted where in the county adult businesses could locate. But they held off on the second ordinance, the one that would regulate the activities inside adult entertainment clubs, until after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a key case, which happened in April.

County legal staffers were scheduled to bring the second ordinance back in June, but decided it would be best to start over. County Attorney Robert Sumner said the county will have to make several significant changes in the proposed ordinance in order to meet the criteria set in the court ruling.

"It's my opinion that we need to have a completely new ordinance," Sumner said.

Chief Assistant County Attorney Barbara Wilhite said the legal department didn't know yet what those changes would be.

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