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“City of Palm Coast Code Enforcement Is Done Identically To Any Other City,” Attorney Says

| March 31, 2015

Palm Coast residents are not quite enthusiastic about code enforcement, whose visibility is emphasized by the city's fleet of frequent-driving trucks (seen here in a  file photo).  But the city has no plans to alter its approach. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast residents are not quite enthusiastic about code enforcement, whose visibility is emphasized by the city’s fleet of frequent-driving trucks (seen here in a file photo). But the city has no plans to alter its approach. (© FlaglerLive)

Prepare to gasp.

“It’s not like the city of Palm Coast has its own way and everyone else does it a certain other way,” Bill Reischmann, the Palm Coast city attorney, told the city council this morning. “City of Palm Coast code enforcement is done identically to any other city, any other county in the state of Florida.”

The statement may sound surprising to some residents in a city known for its very aggressive code enforcement—a department of 25 employees, 13 of them inspectors, accounting for an annual budget of $2.2 million of the city’s $28 million general fund. But Reischmann was being precise, and correct. He was referring to the process that Palm Coast follows once its code enforcement measures kick in. That process is laid out in state law, and no local government may diverge from it.

The difference between Palm Coast and other local governments in the county—or in many counties—is the council’s policy decision, dating back to the city’s earliest years, to make code enforcement a priority, with significant emphasis on the enforcement part.  That’s not the case in any other city in the county, as a Palm Coast Observer article indicated last week. Flagler Beach, Bunnell and the county have a combined force of four code enforcement employees.

The article triggered a large amount of responses by email to members of the council, which Heidi Shipley, one of the council’s two newest members, noted this morning when she asked if she could ride along one of the code enforcement officers to better understand the system. She will be doing that soon.

Shipley’s request gave the council and administration a chance to re-clarify a few things about the way Palm Coast does code enforcement and the numerous misunderstandings those methods can generate. One thing the council did not touch in its discussion this morning was how relatively unpopular code enforcement is. The city’s assumption is that while code enforcement generates its share of complaints, particularly from those at the receiving end of code violations, the city is only executing the wish of the council—to have a clean, manicured city.

But residents are, by the city’s own accounting, not exactly thrilled about code enforcement. According to the city’s own annual survey, just 49 percent of residents give code enforcement positive marks: that’s the most negative response for any of the city’s direct services, including traffic enforcement and utility billing, which have usually been sore spots with residents (utilities, because of recent utility rate increases). The issue occasionally grabs the attention of council candidates at election time, but the council has not reconsidered its tough approach to code enforcement nor has plans to.

Meanwhile, one of Palm Coast residents’ favorite sports in a city teeming with idle eyes—second-guessing code enforcement officers—carries on.

A legal process more rigorously enforced in Palm Coast than elsewhere generates questions and misunderstanding.

“I don’t think they realize all that code enforcement does,” Shipley said of the emails she’s been receiving, “but they’re asking me to look at code enforcement to see what they do when they’re driving around, why they’re driving around, why some people’s houses are tagged and other houses aren’t.”

People get upset when they get tagged but the neighbor across the street doesn’t, even though that neighbor may have a similar issue. Jim Landon, the city manager, says tagging may have been done—just not when the resident saw it. People get upset because they feel they got tagged unfairly, and even though no one may have called the city to complain. “If someone calls in for trash cans left out on non-trash days and they go into that neighborhood,” Landon said of inspectors, “they will actually issue a notice or a warning to everyone that has trash cans out. You don’t go down a street with blinders on and just go that one street that somebody complained about.”

And it’s not correct that code enforcement picks on certain streets over others: officers will drive every street of the city twice a month. Still, the misperceptions continue.

“Everybody has a different opinion,” Landon said. “One recently was how come we allow blue driveways. Some people think that’s OK, other people don’t. So you’re always going to have the different opinions as to what’s OK and what’s not.”

A recurring point of contention is over the code enforcement process itself, after a property owner or a resident has been “tagged”—after the violation process has begun, usually with a warning. Much of that if not all of it (aside from the source of the violation) happens behind the scenes, or scenes visible to those who might be lodging the complaints. That’s where the state-required steps kick in.

“I think it would be very instructive and very helpful to go to a code enforcement board meeting,” Reischmann said, “because then you see the end of the process, or toward the end of the process, where you see people coming in and being cooperative, people coming in and it’s the sixth time they’ve come before the code enforcement board or the first time, or it’s been going on for years and you see the neighbors in there. Then you see both sides, and it’s really, really educationally instructive.” He described code enforcement officers as “peacemakers.”

“All they’re looking for is code of compliance. There’s no agenda,” Reischmann said. “Code enforcement officers have a tremendous amount of discretion statutorily, to provide reasonable amount of time to allow a property owner to come into compliance. If this is the seventh time that you’ve been in violation, that definition of reasonable goes down. If it’s the first time, you’ve got a death in the family, you’ve got a medical issue, these folks have a lot of common sense, and you can tell when you go to a code board meeting, that they exercise that common sense.”

Mayor Jon Netts, who started his local government service on the city’s code enforcement board, told the story he’s often told about the grass growing to a foot, then two feet or higher, to a neighbor’s despair, as the city’s process carried on.

“That’s why we start it a little earlier now, with our notices, so it doesn’t get to the three feet as fast as it did in the past,” says Barbara Grossman, who heads the city’s code enforcement division. “When the blooms of the weed start coming out, we give them a courtesy notice at that time, so by the time it gets to the foot we’re already at the second notice.”

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25 Responses for ““City of Palm Coast Code Enforcement Is Done Identically To Any Other City,” Attorney Says”

  1. tulip says:

    I have noticed a large number of homeowners watering on the wrong days and/or wrong times. Some are new and may not know the rules.

    People are using the swales and culde sacs as their personal 24/7 parking spaces.

    I live in the “w”section and have noticed a decline in enforcement over the last couple of years.

    If a person reports a violation and that violation is not occurring at the time code enforcement drives by, then the case is closed. Perhaps a list of code enforcement rules could be mailed to the address reported, and to all new residents who don’t know what they are. Or, why couldn’t they be printed in an obvious place on the utility bills. That way, we are all reminded every month.

    Once a few people see violations happening with no consequences, then they start doing the same thing.

    • anonymous says:

      @ tulip, that would be a tremendous waste of resources, to mail everyone that had a complaint a list of rules. If it is not happening at the time of the drive by then just call again if it is truly a problem. People need space to park when they have guests over, you need to find something else to do with your time and re-prioritize your life. This is not significant enough to warrant what you are saying.

    • The Truth says:

      If you notice the violation occurring at certain times of the day, include that when you report the violation and it will get addressed.

  2. Jon Hardison says:

    Goodness I hate nitpicking. :-) My question is really about consistency.
    So the house next to mine got written up for weeds but only in the back yard. The home was just sold, so not a big deal. I mowed the back yard for them the day they got the notice. (Yeah, I’m a pretty awesome neighbor.) Anyways…
    The weeds in the front yard of the house right next to that one were just as long and there was no warning. The enforcement truck was up and down the street several times before he left the warning.

    I’m not trying to stir up trouble, and I, personally, have no problem, and have had no problems with code enforcement. But as a spectator, I can say there are certainly issues with how, when and why rules are enforced. Why is this? I have no idea. But to suggest that there is NO issue would also be incorrect.

    I don’t think problems are as big as some make them out to be, but there is certainly a problem.
    Is the vacant home an easier target for the city?
    Does an occupant being home impact how or if violations are written up?
    Does the presence of a vehicle in the driveway reduce the chances of being tagged?
    Does an open garage reduce the chances even more?
    Who knows. Maybe enforcement officers don’t want to deal with confrontations by irate residents? I wouldn’t want to.

    I’m just making wild guesses, but what I’ve seen on isolated occasions isn’t even or fair.
    Just sayin’.

  3. Long Time Resident says:

    Yeah, sometimes it looks like they “cherry pick” but if the city really wanted to, they could have a field day with all of the violations that take place in this town. It’s probably good the trucks are seen out and about some of us need reminders of what’s what sometimes.

    • The Truth says:

      Did you bother to report these violations? You do realize there is a lot of road to cover for only 25 code enforcement employees, all of which don’t drive a truck around all day. Report these violations online using the City’s reporting system and I can assure you they will get addressed.

  4. T says:

    Code Enforcement is not the issue. They are enforcing the codes that the citizens (through their council members) want enforced. The bigger issue is what the codes themselves require. If people are unhappy, they need to ask for the codes and ordinances to be revised.

    • cas says:

      I agree with you – the codes in this city are ridiculous – you can’t park your work van in your own driveway if it has decals…PLEASE give this hard working man a break. You can’t have your own boat on your property which forces you to rent a space to store it. I would recommend moving to Flagler Beach where they aren’t so concerned about the “looks” of a work van. Plus, the water is probably 50% cheaper.

  5. The Truth says:

    The constant complaining about code enforcement is ridiculous in this city. Code Enforcement does what no one else wants to do. No one enjoys the house on the street that never seems to cut their grass and needs someone to babysit them and tell them when to do it, or the people who leave their trash cans at the end of the driveway for days and days and they get pushed into the street. The fact of the matter is that WITHOUT code enforcement we would be much worse than we are. The ‘cherry picking’ that some of you complain about is ridiculous. The city has a great system in place to put in anonymous complaints on their website. If one of your neighbors is clearly breaking code, report it immediately and you can track the progress.

    I realize some codes are ridiculous and I’m not saying that everything is perfect as is, but I think we all need to take a step back and realize that without code enforcement many of our neighborhoods would look like dumps. Then, those of you whining about code enforcement would be on here whining about why no one wants to buy your house next to the dump who doesn’t cut his grass, leaves trash in the yard and doesn’t maintain their home.

    Let’s be realistic and understand that code enforcement is comprised mostly by residents of Palm Coast. These people live here just like everyone else. Let’s not treat them like a worthless human being just because they work there. Show some respect and if you don’t like something, go to a City Council meeting and voice your opinion instead of whining behind a keyboard.

  6. Cyd Weeks says:

    “I realize some codes are ridiculous” And there ya go. Change ’em. Are you telling me it reasonable that a working man/woman in a work truck can’t come home to have lunch with his kids? And yes, they are getting written up for it. ” accounting for an annual budget of $2.2 million of the city’s $28 million general fund” They aren’t going to change a thing. Not a thing. It’s not all about lawns.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Bingo. Follow the money. When they suddenly go around the city writing up a gazillion people for not having their air conditioners shielded – to the point that it results in the home improvement stores selling out of anything that can be used to shield them – it certainly looks like they are working as sales agents for the local big box hardware stores.

      It is frankly ridiculous that we have a rule that says you can’t see an air conditioner from the street. It’s a piece of equipment that is essentially mandatory for every Florida home. Why is the sight of it so offensive?

  7. mr b says:

    people be real , palm coast has codes for any part of your living in city , council members need to drop many codes , keep the important ones that like the one if a home has a car in front yard and grass is ready to bale, as to people reporting others you will find them in every city ,they just are bitter ,nosey people with to much time on hands, people take up a indoor hobby ,then you will not see what others are doing , cut the codes then you can cut the running cost ………

  8. William L Butler says:

    I live in the “W” section. My house is between two vacant lots. One is properly cleared for fire prevention and one is not. I have called code enforcement for 5 years about this and it never changes. I have called, wrote, used the citizen complaint service, and asked the fire chief to look into the violation that places my home in danger from fire. Enforce one but not the other? Really? Rather bizarre isn’t it?

  9. ryan says:

    I agree with many of the complaints about code enforcement. I have a friend right now who has a jerk off neighbor that keeps calling on him because he has a car with an expired plate on it, because he is fixing it and can’t afford to fix it right away. Code enforcement will sure leave broken bottles all over the place for animals and people to have to walk through, but will pick up yard sale signs at the snap of a finger. sad how many nit picky asses there are in this town who care less about crime and more about what color the neighbor painted their house. get a life and find something better to do, like a hobby.

  10. confidential says:

    I applaud Palm Coast Code Enforcement because thanks to their excellent and never appreciated work and all the good resident neighbors that file those ordinances violations complaints, is that we yet did not become a Palm Coast Slum! Code Enforcement is overwhelmed with complaints simply because most are genuine violations and mostly inspected based in complaints, as sure they have plenty to do as is.
    I am a 24 years Palm Coast resident that abides by our ordinances and I do it first, because I like my property to look good for my own enjoyment and also second for respect to my neighbors. Our Code Enforcement officers and their boss Barbara Grossman are very conciliatory and give violators all that is allowed by law to come into compliance…meanwhile like mentioned above inconveniencing the complainant that doesn’t understand the time it takes the step by step enforcement process accordingly to Florida Law. Then Code Enforcement receives the rebound from both sides of the issue: the mischievous violator graving every loop he can to avoid fixing the violation and the disappointed complainant given that same long time to resolve the eyesore. Same happens with our Sheriff Department when called over kids vandalism or dangerous adults. I would give a medal to all our deputies, that I have seeing risking their lives on these calls and utilizing all their conciliatory tools available under Florida Law before taking anyone to jail!
    Then my question to all the one’s that wine regarding our Palm Coast strict ordinances or beat up our Sheriff department over their good services…if you moved to a beautiful place like Palm Coast still is, why do you want to destroy in into a slum ridden by violence, vandalism and crime? Don’t be lazy pick up after yourselves keep all around your properties tight and neat, obey our city ordinances and don’t go around harassing your neighbors (many elderly) demanding to know who called code enforcement or sheriff on you! Pretty sick and tired to be insulted by irreverent, messy “newcomers” like some of the above. My advise is that you all will get less expensive living quarters and plenty of room to keep your nuisances out of site of your neighbors, in a bigger property west of Rte. 1.

  11. lena Marshal says:

    Attorney is correct, check any City and its the same or worse or better. City of Ormond Beach, for example. People in PC are so spoiled, you got to follow written laws sorry just because you don’t have Police in your town for 30 years, doesn’t give you the right to break the law.

  12. Rich Mikola says:

    Palm Coast needs MORE code enforcement, not less. Parts of the ‘B’ section look almost ghetto-ish. Trashy yards, commercial vehicles in driveways, swale parking, lawn parking, and businesses being run out of garages and yards used for storage of supplies for same. Enforce the existing rules and make Palm Coast a better and cleaner place to live. No one needs to have their property values driven down by the neighborhood dirt bag! Usually a renter.

  13. ItsTheFactsJack says:

    I have no issues with following the ordinance. What I do have an issue with is consistency and turning neighbor against neighbor. For example, we were cited a year ago because our garage door had 2 colors. We complied and painted the garage door 1 solid color. There was/is a house around the corner that had copied and yet they weren’t cited, and a year later still have 2 colors. Also, if you drive around PC you will see other garage doors in violation and don’t tell me they recently painted. Why haven’t these houses been cited? Why didn’t I report them, you ask. Had a neighbor who had been reported. He approached the code enforcer who notified him that it was a neighbor who had reported the violation. Well, this neighbor was on a war path of retaliation. Said it was pay back time. The Code Enforcer should just had stated “You are in violation per section, blah, blah. Instead of creating issues within the neighborhood.

  14. Zee says:

    I have been a resident for 18 yrs. I did get a warning because you can see my air conditioner unit from the street. I did think this was ridiculous but I did buy the enclosure to cover it. What bothers me is all my neighbors a/c units can be seen. To tell you the truth I have no problem seeing their units, to me it’s not an eyesore, the eyesore is seeing loose items around the sides of some homes. My yard is well kept and nothing else outside around a/c unit. This enforcement code to cover a/c units is ridiculous if they are just gonna choose one house on the street. Mine has to be covered but my neighbors does not? figure that one out!!!

    • Jon Hardison says:

      Okay… Here is a question:

      This is in response to Zee above. I’m from NYC. While this isn’t an excuse, I want to be clear. To me grass is magic. Some people have this magic and others don’t. I do not. I have hire companies, I have purchased seed. I have fertilized. I have tried everything and nothing works. I’ve been deeply engaged in my grass battle for the better part of 4 years and NOTHING WORKS!

      Seriously, I work harder on my yard than anyone (less maybe one family) in my area and have managed to get nothing out of it. What money I have dumped into it yielded no results.

      Is there a lawn or yard support group? I’m not trying to be funny. I’m seriously sick of nothing working. I’m sick of handing these companies money for nothing. There has to be a “Grass for Idiots” group or something that can help.

      I want nothing more than to have a nice yard and it’s much better than it was, but seriously…
      WHAT DO I DO?

      • Zee says:

        I wish I can help you with what to do . I could not do it so I do have a lawn guy that comes and mows & edges ….& trims bushes when needed and I have a company that takes care of my lawn with the fertilizing …sorry I can’t help you with any info.

      • Zed says:

        I had the same problem for years. When our house was built Bahia grass was installed but over the years the St.Augustine grass from both sides of our neighbors yards have spread into my lawn. So now my yard has 75% St.Augustine an the rest Bahia and weeds. I was fed up so last year I used Scotts weed n feed for Souther lawns. It worked and my lawn looked dark green and lush. Another problem arose, the grass was growing very fast. During our brief winter the grass dried up. Then in March the weeds were coming back with a vengence. I once again used the Scotts weed n feed for Souther lawns and it took over a month to completely work, Now 95% of weeds have been killed. Grass does not look as green as last year, growing slowly but it looks good. Called up Scotts and I was advised to use The Turf Builder so that the grass roots will grow stronger and will be able to withstand the summer heat. So yet to apply that.
        Now the kicker is that there are patches on the front lawn that keeps getting burnt with the the poop and urine of neighbors cats and dogs. It has become an animal toilet. Tried a few things that would deter the animals but the responsibility is on the owners who seem to take great pleasure in having my lawn messed up while keeping theirs immaculate.What does one do at his point, seriously? These neighbors have become nasty to the extent of harassing. Who likes to open their front door to the smell of poop and urine or accidently walk on them? So much for tidiness but what about cleanliness and health of all concerned? One dog owner claims that the code enforcement manager is his friend….in a way saying that I can call on you but not the other way around. With so much of idleness and jealousy around like a virus that now prying and complaining has become the other hand of harassment almost a sport.

  15. Dantel says:

    Reallocate the budget to law enforcement. Instead of enforcing the growth on weeds, focus on enforcing the growth of WEED – and meth; Maybe if we got rid of the scum in this city, we wouldn’t have to investigate their landscaping felonies.

  16. Deborah Susswein says:

    How can we as residents of Palm Coast have a say in changing codes we feel are not fair or do not encourage a positive neighborhood spirit? I have been harassed by a vindictive neighbor who has nothing better to do than cause trouble and poison the street with malicious and irritating complaints (and other unrelated behaviors). He refuses to talk to me. I have spoken to a code enforcement officer who says this is not uncommon in Palm Coast. If complainants had to own up to and take responsibility for their grumblings, then it might reduce the number of complaints submitted. Anonymous complaints are sniping and cowardly. Wouldn’t it be better for neighbors to talk to each other, to work these issues out on their own so that code enforcement inspectors could probably do their job with fewer barbs aimed at them? We need more self-empowering methods to solve problems (just as mediation serves to declutter the court dockets and to give back power to the people to work problems out together and a mutually satisfying way). Code enforcement, like the courts, is about a winner and a loser, which dis-empowers the residents and creates further tension, anger and resentment in a neighborhood. How can we, as residents, revamp the system to be more just and self-empowering, providing a way so we can work out our issues and not run to the enforcers to do our work?

  17. Sunny says:

    If you dont like living in a deed restricted city then dont move to Palm Coast. Don’t move here hoping to break the rules or to have them changed. The regulations keep our city clean and neat. It is your choice to move here but dont expect everything to change for you. If you dont like a deed restricted city then move on!

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