Code Compliance Makes Strides in Lake Worth
For years, bringing properties into compliance with Lake Worth codes has been a challenge. Suffering from 1,000s of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties, years of deferred maintenance, and absentee landlords and property owners; the City’s overall character had become severely blighted. Code Compliance also was attempting to manage hundreds of ongoing violations with properties running in fine to the tune of millions of dollars. The reputation of the Code Compliance Division was tattered and demoralizing. Drastic, proactive, and concerted efforts were required to turn the tide and reinvigorate and revitalize the city.
Beginning in 2012, the City adopted a series of ordinances (laws) to address the many neglected properties. A Chronic Nuisance Program including Remediation for lot clearings, board & secures and demolitions was adopted. This program allows for the City to recoup its expenditures to undertake these activities by attaching the unpaid costs to the property owner’s tax cards. This attachment guarantees that the City will eventually be paid. The Code Compliance Division was reorganized and appropriately staffed and trained. Today, every officer has a certification from the Florida Association of Code Enforcement (FACE). Proactive positive customer service has become a priority. Other changes were made to streamline and encourage investment in the City and to resolve outstanding code violations. All were systematically implemented to support a full on attack of the deteriorating condition of the city.
Now after three years of arduous, often confrontational, effort, significant changes are on the horizon. Blight is being removed at a pace never before seen in the City. Over the past three years, the City and the CRA through its NSP2 program cooperatively have addressed more than 190 properties through the demolition of unsafe structures, the clearing of overgrown, trashed lots or the boarding and securing of open, abandoned structures. Private investment in cleaning up and revitalizing properties also is increasing.
Code Compliance has experienced success in other areas as well. More than 1,000 code cases were resolved in the past year with a record collection of outstanding liens and administrative costs totaling almost $900,000. Much of this activity is due to the incentive program adopted by the City Commission, where costs to resolve code issues can be deducted from the outstanding lien. Then the Special Magistrate can give consideration of further lien reductions once the property is in compliance. The program has encouraged thousands of dollars to be invested in the City.
Code compliance efforts are making a significant, positive difference in the city. Private investment is on the upswing. Properties are changing hands. The numbers of outstanding code cases and uncollected liens are improving. Abandoned, vacant or foreclosed properties are being returned to productive use. With the next year looking to be as aggressively successful as the past, the City will have steamed the tide of blight. There is a much brighter future for Lake Worth where every block will be a symbol of pride for the city’s residents. It just takes tackling one block at a time, and one by one the exciting potential of Lake Worth will be revealed.