Wednesday, May 11, 2016

$12k wedding fine, $3600 fine for destroying history

Destroy a historic building, get fined only $3600 for working without permits.

Hold illegal weddings in a historic building, get fined $12,000.

On May 10, 2016, St. Augustine's Code Enforcement Board voted a $12,000 fine against a corporate lawyer for holding illegal weddings at historic Sanchez House, 7 Bridge Street.
In 2014, it approved a $3600 fine for ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR. for working without permits, destroying 211-year old DON PEDRO FORNELLS HOUSE (after which maladroit City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ publicly hugged LEN WEEKS).  
Denial of equal protection of the law?
You tell me.
This wedding fine case is heading to Circuit Court.

St. Augustine code enforcement board: $12K fine for Sanchez House wedding

Posted: May 10, 2016 - 10:31pm  |  Updated: May 11, 2016 - 5:01am

St. Augustine’s code enforcement board voted to fine a property owner $12,000 after finding that another wedding was held at 7 Bridge St. in a another violation of city code. 
The fine was the total of $500 per day from April 16 — the date of the wedding that sparked the violation at the Sanchez House property — up to the date of Tuesday’s hearing. 
Board members discussed penalties for property owner Blake Deal III ranging from $250 for just the event day, but they settled on a bigger fine after some indicated a smaller fine wouldn’t stop the events — and wouldn’t get the message across. 
Deal, who was not at the meeting, maintains he’s not running a wedding business but is simply renting the home as allowed by city code, and letting renters do what they want as long as it’s legal. 
But the city sees it differently. 
“It’s operating for the purpose of holding special events, in my opinion,” said board member Clyde Taylor, adding that charging $250 or $500 just for the day an event occurs would be “gutless.”
“He will keep doing it because it’s the cost of doing business,” Taylor said. 
The board had already voted on April 12 to find that Deal was operating a business — a wedding venue — without a license. And he was also found in violation of the city’s zoning code because wedding businesses aren’t allowed in the district. He was told to cease having weddings at the property. 
Four days later, another wedding was held at the property, and a code enforcement officer took pictures. That led to another notice of violation and Tuesday’s hearing before the board. 
Assistant City Attorney Denise May said Tuesday that the code enforcement board had the authority to fine Deal up to $500 per day for a second violation. The vote to fine Deal $12,000 was 6-0. Board member CeCe Reigle was not at the meeting. Deal has 30 days to appeal the latest decision once the official order is signed. 
He’s already said he’ll appeal the April 12 code enforcement decision this month. The city has not received notice that an appeal had been filed as of Tuesday, officials said. 
Deal sent a letter to code enforcement officer Curtis Boles in response to the latest notice of violation. 
The letter says that Deal is “not operating a ‘wedding-hall, chapel with exterior garden, reception area’ as stated in [the notice of violation]. 7 Bridge St. is a residential home and contains no accoutrements or modifications of any sort that would indicate a wedding hall or chapel is being operated.”
Deal has said that he rents the property in accordance with city code for one month or greater at a time, and city officials have already said that doesn’t require a business license. 
He has said tenants can have events if they want to, including weddings. 
“It is not my place to tell you how to do your job,” the letter reads, “but considering that the findings of the [code enforcement board on April 12] are being appealed to circuit court, I would strongly suggest that you come to the [Tuesday] hearing prepared to present evidence that the subject matter of your notice did not occur within the confines of a one-month or more rental of the property.”
Deal’s paralegal Nancy McAlum represented him at Tuesday’s meeting, and she requested the hearing be postponed. She said Deal had already scheduled a vacation prior to getting notice of the meeting.
People who live near the Sanchez House spoke at the hearing too, saying they saw evidence of a wedding on April 16, as well as other issues. 
“There were trucks and laborers blocking Bridge Street,” said Earl Stratton, who added that a trolley was involved in a wreck on the street. 
Wendy Gowen said concerns about the use of the site include traffic congestion brought on by events. She also said the fine should be “something substantial,” since a wedding was hosted at the site just days after the board had told Deal to stop allowing weddings. 
“If we want to change the rules, change the rules,” Gowen said. “But if these are the rules, we really need to follow them for the residents of St. Augustine. I live here hoping that people all up and down the street from me aren’t going to have weddings at their houses.”
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Bigjosh92 05/10/16 - 11:29 pm
The fine is too low
The City Commisdion should
change the amount of the fine
to up to a $1,000.00 a day. This
is too cheap. Mr Deal probably
makes more than $12,000 a
month and it's just not right! I
wouldn't want the quiet enjoyment
of my home disturbed by a
wedding party next door!

Morris1 05/10/16 - 11:37 pm
... how is this fine schedule even tenable? 
The claimed offense occurred on one single day. 
The city has arbitrarily decided that they will fine the offending party from the day the offense occurred, up to the day they decided to have a hearing about it? So if they decided to discuss it next month, they could've run him up for another 30 or so days of "fines"?

mach12.1e 05/11/16 - 07:31 am
Hey Clyde!
Bet getting in on the action is going to provide you with a lot of dollars to pump in to the parking meters. Oh, that's right, you're exempt. Only the working people and "tourists" have to play for the privilege of parking downtown.

Firstcoaster 05/11/16 - 08:47 am
That's a bigger fine than one gets for murder. Who needs funding for a pet project?
Which neighbor has a hook into city hall?
This won't stand up in court.

cgsurf 05/12/16 - 11:25 am
Deal needs to look into Boles who has violations at his house
Deal and others need to scrutinize the Planning and Building dept and their employees. Curtis Boles lives (in the city) in an illegal and unpermitted duplex (property is listed and zoned single family), additionally Boles also has junk and debris violations on same property, all previously reported but the city ignored enforcing. Hmmm selective or corrupt enforcement? Curtis Boles is also incompetent, has numerous complaints against him and quite frankly is only employed by the city because corrupt Errol Jones (he was in the jail blotter again after being arressted AGAIN) who was a city commish had the city hire him without the job being offered to others. The city did this once before when they (code enforcement) hired then city commish Susan Burkes boyfriend Pat Wolf who had been "relieved" from his job at the police dept for "unbecoming behavior". Look into this stuff, it's FACT!
Look at the P&B Dept's lack of enforcement of it's own tree ordinance, they require permits and replacement of tree's but never follow up and ensure tree's are replanted and maintained for 2 years, someone needs to look into that! 
There is more I can expose and I will, but I suggest those being targeted by the city look deeper into their operation and violations of Florida Statutes as it applies to code enforcement. I think you will find violations of civil rights if you look into it. The citizens and even employees of the city have been unjustly harmed by the city's P&B Dept.

cgsurf 05/12/16 - 11:38 pm
COSA P&B under the microscope...
lets explore/expose an incompetency of the P&B/code enforcement, their tree ordinance procedure(s) and enforcement. Why is this important? Because of how it affects and costs the taxpayers it serves. A permit is required to remove a tree in the city if it is over a certain size diameter, some trees require a property owner to pay a fee and get permission from the CEAAB, all trees removed require replacement trees be planted and maintained for a period of two(2) years to ensure the replacement trees establish and survive. Additionally the city initiates, cites and enforces penalties against property owners who remove trees without first obtaining permit and approval. Again why is all of this important? Because the city is negligent and selective in their enforcement and management of this particular ordinance and their own records prove it, since taxpayer dollars fund this dept and a taxpayer can be cited and fined by the city. One has to question where else does the P&B/Code Enforcement act irresponsibly when it comes to enforcing it's codes, how many times have they violated a property owners due process and civil rights?
They city has a history of not verifying replacement trees (check their records it will prove it) in fact I will say they have a pattern of not doing it all, they have no follow up procedure in place that mandates it. They have no two(2) year follow up to verify that the tree(s) replanted were maintained. Additionally the P&B Dept has gone after regular average property owners and thrown the book at them while more connected entities in the city are given a pass, one example that comes to mind is former P&B Director Mark Knight and his allowing Flagler College (Dr. Proctor since he was the guy in charge) to remove trees without permit and going to the CEAAB for approval during their dorm construction. In fact Mark Knight personally gaffed and handled the "permits" associated with that building project and don't think for one minute that the current staff and director didn't know about it.
The point of this post is to open the eye's of everyone that corruption exists in COSA's P&B Dept and Code Enforcement. Maybe a reporter from the local news sources should do some investigating.

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