In a sense, the Board of County Commissioners could be considered to have begun the final stretch of cleaning up the county from Hurricane Michael.
During a special meeting last Wednesday, timed to allow required public advertising in advance of considering ordinance amendments Tuesday, approved moving ahead with two efforts aimed at code enforcement and garbage.
In the first, commissioners approved for advertisement an amendment to the Building Code that would allow the county to cut power to out-of-code properties with 24-hour notice.
The second action was to advertise to implement mandatory garbage collection for properties within the county’s previously-defined tourist corridor.
The BOCC will conduct public hearings on both measures during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. ET in the Commission meeting room.
The amendment to the building code would also include a steeper scale for fines levied for first, second and third violations to the county building code.
Additionally, penalties include up to 60 days in the county jail.
However, that process to eliminating any illegal structure(s) or bringing properties up to code, including a hearing before a special magistrate, is time-consuming.
And given the landscape in some areas of the county, from St. Joe Beach to Oak Grove to Jones Homestead, the county has too many properties blatantly out-of-code.
“The process is too slow,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond.
There are property owners placing more than one RV on an individual lot against county codes.
Additional out-of-compliance structures and trash are also showing up on properties around the county, but particularly on the southern end since Michael.
Ensuring folks have a roof over their heads is not the issue, Hammond said.
But the county needs “all hands on deck” to have people clean up their properties, he added.
In short, the amended Building Code will allow the county to provide notice to a property owner with out-of-compliance structures or illegal trash on their property that they have 24 hours to bring the property into compliance or the power will be shut off.
“They come into compliance within 24 hours or the power is cut off,” Hammond said. “A lot of problems are solved by cutting the power.”
The amendment is also aimed, Hammond said, at those who “game” the system by creating out-of-compliance conditions, racking up fines and notices and then moving to another piece of property and repeat.
In addition, Hammond said, it would help address owners of property in Oak Grove who are advertising for renters and renting despite renting being illegal in Oak Grove.
Implementing mandatory garbage in the tourist corridor will, commissioners and county staff hope, help alleviate significant issues with trash along coastal properties.
The issues are myriad, from some properties not having sufficient containers to not providing containers at all, forcing visitors renting those properties to put refuse in other people’s containers.
The problem is particularly acute, Hammond said, with “mom-and-pop” renters and those self-renting through entities such as VRBO.
“Some people don’t have (garbage) service at all,” said Commissioner Phil McCroan. “They fill up other people’s cans and that causes more problems.”
The ordinance amendment requires all rental properties within the tourist corridor to have garbage pick-up and any rental property with more than two bedrooms must have two BCC Waste Solutions solid waste receptacles.
In addition, rental properties must have two pick-ups per week from contractor BCC.
The additional pick-ups will cost $8 per month.
“It’s a health issue, it’s a bear issue,” said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County. “This is good for the tourist corridor.”