Enforcing the code

Code enforcement briefs City Council

Zephyrhills City Councilman Alan Knight has a few pet peeves and the one that sits atop of his list as a city leader are roadside signs and signs posted to utility poles.

In response to Knight’s request for an update from the city’s code enforcement department, code enforcement officer Joel Bacon highlighted the department’s responsibilities and fielded questions regarding code enforcement violations in the city.

While Knight would like nothing more that to have every right-of-way advertisement sign pulled from the ground as the department’s top priority, he is very much aware the code enforcement officers have an incredibly full plate.

“I just admire you guys and I know your hands are full,” Knight said. “This is no different than what I call for from other departments. I will tell you, and I know you’re trying; I have a pet peeve about the signs on the poles and in the yards.

“Don’t let it cross your mind that I’m not behind you 100 percent.”

Bacon explained that the office has investigated 69 cases since Jan. 1, 2021 and seven of those were for sign violations. The department issued 25 citations this year for fines of $7,750 and recovered over $5,000 in liens.

In his report Bacon added that the department is responsible for investigations involving abandoned property, accessory buildings and structures, demolition, fences, fire codes, minimum housing standards and dozens of miscellaneous cases ranging from raising nuisance chickens to illegal electricity.

“I’ve been riding behind you guys picking up signs and throwing them in the back of your truck and I would come back two hours later and there would be a new sign in the same spot,” Proctor said. “I know you are doing the best you can. I know it’s hard when you pull a sign and they are right behind you putting them back up.”

Knight noted that he feels the city is not getting enough cooperation from the county on code enforcement issues around the city limits.

“We see rundown property and I really need to make some kind of statement to the county and say we need help and we have major problems south of town and they need to come here and help us,” Knight said. “I need for them to understand that we are just as important as anybody in the county. They way we are growing and we’re the largest city in the county, they need to step up. I feel very strongly about that.”

Bacon told Knight that prior to COVID-19, the city and county code enforcement were combining efforts to form a task force to address similar problem in and around the city.

City Building Official Bill Burgess explained to city council that handling the sign issues is more of an educational approach than a “heavy-handed” one.

“Most of the signs are business related,” Burgess said. “We try to be sympathetic to people trying to advertise their business so we’re not real heavy-handed on signs.

“We’ll work them. For the most part, we can stay ahead of it. It is something that we will always see.”

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