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Town Council candidate question of the week

March 11, 2020
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fort Myers Beach voters will fill three town council seats on Tuesday, March 17. Seven candidates are seeking three available seats on the five-member elected board. The top three vote getters will fill seats to be vacated by Mayor Anita Cereceda and Councilmember Joanne Shamp, who are not running, as well as the seat currently held by Councilmember Butcher, who is seeking re-election. Voters will also decide whether the terms should be three-year terms or four-year terms. In addition, voters will be asked to decide if the town should change its elections from March to November, which would make these seats approximately eight months longer than a normal term.

Q: Do you believe the town's code enforcement is adequate or have some of the fines and liens been too harsh as some allege?

Dan Allers

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Codes were enacted for a reason and for those reasons they should be enforced, but they should also be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect current policy and building standards. I've heard residents say that code enforcement is unequally enforced and punitive rather that constructive. If that is the case it is a disservice to the community. Clear, accessible and transparent information is the best way to avoid non-compliance. Unless there is an imminent and significant health or safety issue requiring immediate corrective actions, a warning with a clear statement of corrective actions should be our first step, if violation or non-compliance continues, progressively escalate the fines. Code enforcement is about bringing the property into compliance not about raising revenues.

Jim Atterholt

There is currently a climate of fear and frustration in our Town with respect to the dramatic increase in fines from code enforcement. We must solve this by directing the Town Manager to issue fewer tickets, fines and penalties to our residents and businesses. Instead, there needs to be more notice, education and cooperation. It may surprise our residents to learn that the amount of money being collected by the Town in the form of fines and forfeitures from our residents and businesses has more than quadrupled in the last three years. I am not arguing against compliance. We just need to go about code enforcement in a way that partners with our citizens to solve problems working together instead of taking such an adversarial approach.

Robert "Bob" Burandt

Code enforcement is one of the most unappreciated professions there is. I know because from time to time as a police officer I had to respond to assist code enforcement. Code enforcement officers should be polite, respectful and courteous to the homeowners and businesses. I have been hearing of some instances where residents have felt that code enforcement has been a little overaggressive and the town has failed to mitigate the fines which I find unfortunate. The Town Manager is currently in charge of code enforcement and if elected I would move to appoint a person or committee to conduct an independent investigation of these complaints. The council sets the mood for code enforcement and the Town Manager executes on that direction but has a lot of power to enforce and recommend reductions in fines. Let's investigate these complaints and look for solutions.

Bruce Butcher (Incumbent)

I generally believe our code enforcement is on the right track. In the past code enforcement was probably inadequate and fines not collected on liens.

However the goal should always be compliance and not revenue from fines. If the violation is correctable there should be a warning first with time for correction or compliance.

I hate seeing the very very large fines. To me this indicates a system failure. Sometimes though, the violator just does not want to admit they are wrong and they fight compliance.

In the last two appeals to council of code violation fines I have led the argument for drastic reductions of the fines. This is not because there was no violations but I felt the system did not provide for swift conclusion of the matter.

Forrest Critser

Since 1995, the governing body of Ft Myers Beach has passed volumes and volumes and volumes of rules and regulations meant to make our beach safer or neater or more organized. Some are good rules and some are; shall we say not. That of course depends upon your position in town (visitor looking for a parking space or a permanent resident trying to improve their living space or even tear down an eyesore).

Now to paraphrase your question: Is code enforcement fair? Are they doing their job? Are they overzealous? Do they improperly interpret the volumes of rules? If they are honestly doing their job you can't fault enforcement, you can only fault the lawmakers.

David Drumm

Clearly code enforcement needs adjustment. Our town council directs code enforcement. So there should be no delay in making valuable changes.

Let me be clear that I support code enforcement. It is one of the few true powers of our beach. Protecting us from poor construction, violations of our property rights, loud noises, bright lights, dangerous rentals, etc., etc.

The mission should be cooperative compliance and not a money machine.

Remember that they are doing a necessary job and it's tough to get it right. Let's help code enforcement get it right.

Billy Veach

Enforcement is tricky, too much gets oppressive and too little creates conflict. The solution lies in education. Most of us came from somewhere else, where the risks and rules are different. I had no idea how strict building rules were when I moved here and could not find concise information, short of digging through the ordinances. I am not aware of any easily accessible summary of the town's codes. Adding grace periods and more warnings becomes the new normal. Allowing staff discretion creates subjective enforcement and more problems. Education is the key. Town Council could ask an advisory committee to develop a "welcome to FMB" informational handout to be sent to new residents, and/or have an open house for new residents similar to Sanibel's.



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