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Neighbors perturbed by unkept, dirty yard

A Carrollwood resident came under scrutiny for a wall he built around his home. Now, his messy yard creates more fury.

By TIM GRANT

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


CARROLLWOOD -- An ugly dispute over one neighbor's wall in Original Carrollwood finally came to an end earlier this year.

After almost two years of fighting with members of the neighborhood homeowner's association, Charles Himsel won the right to keep the controversial wall he built around his home at 3009 Sabal Road.

Still the hard feelings linger.

The county made Himsel modify the wall because his neighbors complained that it was built out of code. By his own admission, the months of squabbling with his neighbors took its toll on some longtime friendships.

And things are only getting worse. Now that the wall is no longer an issue, the neighbors have a new problem with Himsel -- his yard.

"It's really pretty bad," said Betsy Hapner, president of the Carrollwood Civic Association. "He hasn't cut the grass in at least two months and there's trash everywhere."

Even as they battled over his masonry wall, neighbors would often couch their criticism of his wall with compliments about Himsel's immaculate lawn. At one time, his yard was the pride of Sabal Road. Now it is an embarrassment to the neighborhood.

Himsel would not comment for this article. Although he has stopped talking to his neighbors and has offered no explanation, many here are convinced that he is acting out of spite.

"He had mentioned before he did all this that he was going to do it to punish us," said neighbor Suzee Salter. "It's a shame to have all that bitterness inside. He won't talk to us, answer the phone or even acknowledge anyone."

Mrs. Salter and her 6-year-old daughter Annawalked past Himsel one day. The child asked, "Mommy why doesn't Charley say hello to me anymore when I say hi?"

Mrs. Salter said she explained to the child that Himsel's "heart is very sad and we can only pray for him."

Neighbors said Himsel began defacing his yard around January. First he dumped piles of dirt on the property. In time, grass grew on the mounds and began to die in other areas of the yard, leaving bare dirt. Dead potted plants are strewn about the yard, along with old fence material, a barbecue grill and assorted trash.

Because Himsel's property is not deed restricted, the homeowners can do little to force him to keep up his property.

Deed restrictions in Original Carrollwood, the oldest community in this area, were placed on homes when the community was developed about 40 years ago, but they lasted for only 20 years. The civic association has tried to get homeowners to reinstate their deed restriction contracts, but not everyone has.

Their only recourse is to report Himsel to the county code enforcement office.

Code enforcement supervisor Jim Blinck said he met with Himsel on June 22 and noted the accumulation of yard debris in his inspection report. Blinck said he discussed the health and safety threats with Himsel, and Himsel agreed to take care of those problems. A reinspection is scheduled for Aug. 2, Blinck said.

Blinck said there are some safety and sanitation concerns that the county will require Himsel to correct, but the county does not enforce deed-restricted community standards.

"Our code is not an aesthetics code," Blinck said. "It is a health and safety code. In other parts of the northwest county there are other properties that are in far worse condition than Himsel's.

"Carrollwood has a reputation for having aesthetically pleasing home sites, but that is not a county requirement."

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