Monday, July 24, 2006
Help Me Howard: City Land Grab
If you own a home, listen to this... A city can come along and take part of your yard -- at least that's what one South Florida city was claiming. Then a resident called Help Me Howard to try and block the city's land grab. Can it be done? Here is Patrick Fraser with the story.
Hope Couch: "These are my babies...as you see i got little babies everywhere."
Hope's babies are her plants -- hundreds of them in her backyard -- which became her hobby after she broke her back.
Hope Couch: "Instead of sitting around crying about it, this is what I do now. I grow hundreds of plants, it makes everybody crazy."
But now its the City of Lauderhill that is driving Hope crazy.
Hope Couch: "They are basically saying they are just going to take my property and I have nothing to say about it."
Hope got the news in this letter.
Hope Couch: "The City of Lauderhill plans to install a concrete noise wall on your property."
The city wanted Hope to sign this agreement, giving them permission to remove her fence trees and plants on up to three feet of her property.
In other words -- destroy all this.
Hope Couch: "Basically, they are putting it in and that's just it. I have no say-so about it. And they are not responsible for loss of plants trees, anything like that."
Lauderhill wants to put in a noise wall like this along 82nd Avenue.
But Hope says not only will her plants be destroyed, the city will have to contend with public utility lines that are buried there.
Hope Couch: "You cannot put a solid wall on a utility easement, and I am a utility easement from the sidewalk, ten feet in."
Hope's solution: Put the concrete wall on the property outside her fence.
Hope Couch: "Twelve feet of easement, why can't they just put it out where the sidewalk is?"
Hope wrote Lauderhill a letter refusing to let them tear up her fence and yard.
She never heard back from them.
Then a few weeks she noticed construction of the wall beginning at the other end of her block, and she realized her dream back yard would soon be destroyed.
Hope Couch: "Means alot. That's why I bought it, for the property. And it's gonna all be gone."
She told us she was desperate and made a call to the only people she thought could help. Howard, can we?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes we can, and there are two reasons -- first of all, the city cannot use a utility easement to justify building a wall on someones property. And secondly, Hope has denied their request. Without going to court they can't tear up her fence and yard."
When we spoke to city officials they told us every homeowner except hope wanted the fence.
That they hadn't responded to hopes denial letter because they couldn't get in touch with her.
Of course they had sent a letter to her home a few weeks earlier.
When we pointed out they did not have to right to use three feet of hopes property like their letter seemed to indicate, they told us their letter to hope was wrong.
They then told us they were not going to touch her fence at all.
They are now building the wall behind hopes wooden fence where she wanted it all along
Hope Couch: "I am so happy. I cannot tell you how happy I am...ha ha ha."
Did I mention Hope is happy, her fence is secure, her plants are safe.
Hope Couch: "Easy guys...easy guys."
And she can also rest easy in her quiet little piece of paradise.
Hope Couch: "Oh, I am tickled to death, because of Channel 7 and Patrick and Howard Finkelstein, my fence stays."
Patrick Fraser: "We get one right once in awhile. By the way, if the construction crew accidentally damages Hope's fence or plants they are responsible and have to replace them. And a city can take your property as Howard said, by going to court. But that is called Eminent Domain, and poltically and legally, that's an expensive costly, time consuming propostion."
A problem got you fenced in? Plant it with us. We'll go wall to wall, will a solutionis immeninent.
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