Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Help Me Howard: Golf Course
It's not news that many developers have gone broke and belly up. That is their problem, but many have left behind another problem: properties that are overgrown, filled with weeds and trash, but that is a way for government agencies to make money. As we learn in tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Diane Bernabe bought her home on a golf course, the view was wonderful.
Diane Bernabe: "Oh, it was very pretty. Very nice to look out, you could see the canal."
That was then, this is now.
Diane Bernabe: "A dump, I feel like I live in a safari area. It's just horrible."
A few years ago, a developer paid $48 million for the golf course to do what developers like to do: build. Then the demand for condos disappeared.
Diane Bernabe: "At this point, they are not building anything."
And the developer's desire to show off the property slowly disappeared.
In 2006 and 2007, they only mowed the grass after the county cited them. By 2008, they quit maintaining the property completely, quit cutting the grass and quit trimming the trees, instead letting Mother Nature move in.
Diane Bernabe: "Iguanas have come in. I have had some frogs. We have raccoons, we have rats, we have possums, some of everything."
Four-legged pests and of course, since it is South Florida, lots of two-legged pests.
Diane Bernabe: "There is a lot of illegal dumping at this point. Trucks on the golf course. We have bikers that come on their dirt bikes and ride every weekend."
Diane called the developer's office and got what she thought was a helpful man.
Diane Bernabe: "He promised to contact me back, and every time I've called him now, he's not taking my calls or said that he'll call me back, and he doesn't."
By 2008, the county was still citing the property owner, but the citations mailed to a developer's address in West Palm Beach didn't scare off the raccoons or whack down the weeds.
Diane Bernabe: "I'm very frustrated with the whole situation. I think it's horrible. If I maintained my house like that, I'm sure my neighbor wouldn't appreciate my house."
For a year, the developer has refused to maintain the property, and for a year the county has not stepped in and cleaned up the mess. Diane says it's because no one cares.
Diane Bernabe: "They don't have to live on it, they don't have to see it everyday."
Diane and her neighbors have to live here and can't live with this mess, so, Howard, if the property owner disappears and a government agency does not step in, what can you do?
Howard Finkelstein: "When the property owners ignore the land, it's the government's responsibility to mow it. They have the employees, they have the equipment, and it shouldn't take the county so long to step in."
When we asked Miami-Dade County why they let this property go for so long, they told us, 'There was a delay in our enforcement process due to organizational changes,' but in the past few days, the county paid a company $3,400 to mow the property near the homes. They will bill the developer for that.
The developer then cleared the rest of the property and told the county they would begin to take care of the property on a regular basis, and if the developer stops, the county should show some initiative and make money from this.
Howard Finkelstein: "Stepping in and mowing this golf course would make money for Miami-Dade County. Government agencies can charge high prices for their work, then they slap a lien on the property, so they are guaranteed to get paid when the property changes hands. In addition, they can charge interest on the lien."
Diane can now walk outside and not worry about crossing paths with a raccoon or possum.
Diane Bernabe: "Extremely happy. Finally something is being done, and they are maintaining according to plans."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, the county paid someone $3,400 to mow the grass and charged the developer the same amount, why didn't they charge more to cover the county's cost. It makes perfect sense and saves the taxpayers' money, but we can't answer that cause we don't run Miami-Dade County."
Worries in your life growing like weeds? Need someone to cut them down to size? Contact us. We don't move fast, but we won't let the grass grow under us either.