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Focus on code enforcement begins to sharpen

A series of workshops throughout the county on code
enforcement could lead to an unprecedented overhaul of how the county handles
the breaking of its rules.

Facilitated by the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, the
workshops opened Oct. 30 in Eastpoint, with a second one Nov. 3 on St. George

A workshop for unincorporated Carrabelle was slated for Wednesday,
Nov. 10, and for Lanark Village on Tuesday evening, Nov. 16 at Chillas Hall.
The workshops wrap up Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the county commission meeting room,
for residents of unincorporated Apalachicola.

About 20 people from Eastpoint were at the first workshop,
and nearly 50 people, including Commissioner Bert Boldt, attended the workshop last
week on the island, facilitated by Adriana Silva with the ARPC.

Silva told the audience both workshops received near-unanimous support for the implementation of a code enforcement system.

As it stands now, there is no county code enforcement person
whose primary job it is to address and resolve complaints. Instead, these
possible violations generally are fielded by County Coordinator Michael
Moron first, and if they involve a clear case involving possible law-breaking, are directed to County Attorney Michael Shuler. In addition to
letters going out in reference to what county officials see as a violation of
their ordinances, Shuler may resort to going to court if the county commission
so directs him to do.

At the island workshop, attendees shared concerns about what
is likely to be a common refrain throughout the county, such as getting rid of
abandoned and derelict sand fencing, pools and property that collect mosquitoes, houses and buildings that pose a hazard, and open fires to burn
yard debris.

The presence of RVs and campers on private lots with no
building, sewage disposal or electricity was another concern, as was dumping
along roadsides of furniture, household items and trash in general.

Attendees at the island workshop also voiced concern about automotive
junk and unusable cars in yards, individuals renting out their homes and not
paying the required lodging taxes, and people who remodel and/or expand their
homes’ occupancy levels without increasing the capacity of their septic

Particular to the island is enforcement of the safe turtle
lighting ordinance, which would address unnecessary bright house lights.

Last week, at the Carrabelle city commission, a heated
debate regarding the creation of a new position within the police department
hinted at the possible challenges to come with the creation of countywide code

Police Chief Kevin Shuman proposed a law enforcement officer
position that would have code enforcement responsibilities, pertaining to policing
the boat ramp, parking lots and building sites, as a portion of the job.

The proposals was defeated 3-2, with support only from Mayor
Brenda La Paz and Commissioner Cal Allen.

Some confusion was particular to the proposal, in that it
may have been assumed the position was a new hire, rather than intended to be
filled in-house with the transfer of a full-time police officer into a new job focused
on community policing and code enforcement.

Still, the issue of code enforcement was talked about at
length, with La Paz emerging as a strong proponent.

“It’s everything, it’s parking violations, a broken
sidewalk, a streetlight out, to get these things taken care of,” she said. “Making
sure parks are taken care of, that no one is loitering, it just goes on and on.
It’s just something that’s needed, to try to get in motion.”

Over the past five years, La Paz has pushed for funding for
a part-time code enforcement position, but it has so far not been adopted.

some apprehension in the public and there’s really no need to have apprehension,”
she said. “I was unable to get the commission to move forward because they were
concerned of retaliation. What good are we if we’re going to kowtow to retaliation?”

Even despite the funding concerns, there appeared to be
unanswered questions regarding what powers a code enforcer would have, and how
proactive they would be, regarding such things as use of the boat ramp or
making sure people don’t discard fish waste improperly.

“I just feel like Carrabelle is small and we’re not ready to
do that,” said Commissioner Tony Millender. “I’m not totally against code enforcement;
we have code enforcement now. It’s done by complaint and there’s code enforcement
being handled by the current staff.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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