Monday, January 28, 2013
Help Me Howard: Canal versus Yard
His property is crumbling into a canal. He's tried for years to get the city to fix it, but nothing's happened. So tonight he's turning to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- There are a lot of good things about living on the water, whether its bayfront or canal front.
Howard: "It's beautiful, it's beautiful, nice scenery. It's quiet, it's pleasant, it's a place you can come in and relax, and if you want to swim, you can also fish if you want to."
Howard bought his canal front home in Lauderdale Lakes 20 years ago, but today, instead of fishing, he's fuming.
Howard: "And I got investment, I'm going to lose it."
Over the years, the canal has eaten away at his backyard, eroding three or four feet, Howard estimates.
Howard: "I feel bad. I have a place that I like and love. Now I'm losing it because of the canal."
Howard says, as the canal takes away soil, it also brings down trees.
Howard: "The trees along there, the coconut trees, the mango trees, this whole complete line of kings that he had here was all the way down. All of this inside the canal."
Howard fears the next victim of the creeping canal: his pool.
Howard: "And if we don't get it fixed, the whole swimming pool's gonna crack."
Not only are the neighbors losing their yards. Howard says he often loses his balance.
Howard: "It's dangerous. As a matter of fact, I have fallen in the canal three times already, two or three times already. What makes it so strange: I can't swim. I almost drowned."
That's because the shrinking shore looks safe, but it's soggy.
Howard: "And this is caused by the water washing up underneath the bottom of the bank and washing it out."
The canal is under the jurisdiction of Lauderdale Lakes. Howard says he has been complaining for years, but nothing has been done.
Howard: "I call the city, they come out. I've been calling the city for the last five, seven, eight years, I've been calling. As a matter of fact, the guy knows my name off hand and everything."
Sandbags or a wall would stop the erosion. Howard says he can't afford it, but as a taxpayer he expects the city to do it.
Howard: "I said, 'Look, I'm paying my taxes and everything. I mean, it should be taken care of. I'm not supposed to take care of this.'"
Howard loved it when he bought his canal front home. Now it's driving him crazy.
Howard: "I've got gray hair already, you know what I mean? It's just a problem."
Well, Howard Finkelstein, living on the water is nice, but the erosion is not, so legally, who has to pay to correct it?
Howard Finkelstein: "Since the 1970s, most cities and counties require that documents you sign when you buy the property say if the owner or the association is responsible to maintain the shoreline. In this case, Howard would have been responsible, but good news: We discovered that his property does not reach the water. It stops a few feet short. The property touching the water belongs to the city. Therefore, it is their job to maintain the shoreline."
We contacted the head of Public Works at Lauderdale Lakes. Danny Holmes told us that he was aware of the erosion problem, but in the past the city did not have the money to fix the canals. However, they have recently gotten some grant money and will once again start working on the canals. Holmes is going to recommend that the canal behind Howard's home be put near the top of the list for repairs.
Howard Finkelstein: "To find out the answer to a complicated question like this about your property, first check your closing documents and your association documents, if there are any. If you don't get answers there, check with your city, your county, or drainage district."
Howard: "I'm really happy I called Help Me Howard. I should have called them a long time ago."
Howard will be waiting to see the city's solution to the erosion problem, and he certainly has some advice for them.
Howard: "You know what I mean, if they put the cement bags in, that will last. If they put sand bags in, it's just a waste of money and time."
And if they don't put cement bags, I bet Howard will be calling Help Me Howard again. And this now this brings up a question: If you have a problem that a government agency is required to fix, legally do they have to do it? It depends, because each case is different, and that's an answer no one wants to hear.
Your confidence in solving a problem eroding? Need someone to shore things up? Contact us. We'll do our best to make a big splash. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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