Town code enforcement officers will now have the proper tools to do their jobs.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code to create a more definitive set of rules to allow Town officials to bring properties on Estero Island into compliance.
Prior to the Council's vote approval on Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Town's Land Development Code lacked current property maintenance provisions necessary for proper enforcement. The International Property Maintenance Code, published by International Code Council, will now be the governing law with respect to all structures and premises on the Beach.
The new ordinance repeals Chapter 6 of the Town's "maintenance code."
"The property maintenance code we had in our land development code was kind of subjective and arbitrary to as what a property in state of disrepair meant," said Town Community Development Director Walter Fluegel. "The International Property Maintenance Code has an international set of standards that adds definition to property maintenance code issues. It now eliminates the ambiguity and makes it much more definitive, so that there is no longer a question of whether or not there is a property code violation.
"This just adds a lot more clarity to what a code violation is."
Property maintenance code standards will still be subject to the special magistrate process.
"There will not be any changes on how we handle violations," said Fluegel. "Generally in code enforcement, we go out and work with the property owners, first and foremost, to inform and educate."
That procedure involves a conversation with the violator on how to bring the violation up to code.
"We want to work with them and give them a reasonable time frame to bring the infraction into compliance," said Fluegel. "We'll give them a notice, say a week or 30 days, then go back out and follow up with them. If we do not see it coming into compliance, the next step is a violation. Once another violation is issued, we can give them more time or issue them a notice of hearing that we are taking it to magistrate if it is not fixed within a set amount of time."
The magistrate then presents finding by either giving the violator more time to correct the violation or by levying a fine instantly.
Fluegel believes the International Property Maintenance Code works to the property owner's advantage due to the elimination of subjectivity.
"It's no longer our subject of standards. It is definitely more definitive," he said.
A lot of other Florida communities and beyond have adopted the International Property Maintenance Code.
"These codes are nationally recognized and are an accepted standard set of code enforcement codes," Town Manager Terry Stewart said before the ordinance was approved. "Staff has done an extensive amount of work, and changes were made to make it more user friendly for both the Town of Fort Myers Beach and our businesses and residents."
On Nov. 13, the Town's Local Planning Agency held a public hearing to review the proposed land development regulations, land development codes and amendments to provide Council recommendations in the best interest of health, safety and welfare for all involved. They involved proper light, ventilation, occupancy limitations and plumbing facilities as well as standard requirements for fire safety and fixture, mechanical and electrical components.
Town officials held a workshop on the item several weeks ago, and the ordinance was introduced to Council members at their Jan. 7 meeting.
"We believe the codes and changes are all to the benefit of Fort Myers Beach to make it easier for the residents and business people and the Town to understand," said LPA member Al Durrett.
According to Town records, repairs, additions or alterations to a structure or changes of occupancy will be done in accordance with procedures and provisions of the Florida Building Code. The provisions of the code will not be mandatory for existing buildings or structures formally or designated as historic buildings by either Federal, state or town government, provided such structures are judged by building officials to be safe.