NORTH PORT — The coronavirus excuse may no longer work.
North Port this Thursday resumes its code enforcement hearings, a court-like setting for those breaking, ignoring or contesting ordinance rules.
Code enforcement was interrupted in March, then slowly restored over COVID-19's smackdown that closed city hall and suspended many such services.
North Port's last code enforcement hearing in February was highlighted by a woman ticketed for letting her chickens roam the neighborhood. She won that case.
Thursday's hearing at city hall, however, has pages of backlogged code violations in some stage of resolution. Violators face Hearing Officer James E. Toale, a Sarasota real estate lawyer. His job as judge balances North Port's rules versus people's rights. Hearings in normal circumstances run on fourth Thursdays, 10 months of the year.
Toale's looking at nine pages of cases when things get rolling at 9 a.m.
The ultimate goal is correcting code violations, said Kevin Raducci, the Code Enforcement division's manager. He has four city inspectors, one vacancy.
"The last thing we want to do is take (violators) to court. We're not about fining … rather fixing, trying to work with people."
There's plenty happening Thursday. For instance, one man was ticketed for an unlicensed gym in his garage, others for cutting trees without permits, not cool in North Port, a Tree City USA town.
And others are cited for junked stuff laying about their property — tarps, mattresses, paint cans, busted furniture, pool supplies, plastic jugs and a pit with half-burned trash — illegally parked cars, trucks and a forklift, missing address numbers, other miscellaneous code violations.
Those who don't comply are given property liens or fines, all others returned to good standing.
Inspectors will get complaints or tips, but they work a beat and understand city codes, Raducci said. He rotates routes to keep things fresh. The inspectors first issue courtesy notices and tips for correcting violations. The violator has five days to respond, time to comply.
Penalty fines escalate quickly for those skirting the rules, however.
The inspectors also respect your rights. They're not allowed, for example, to peer over your fence, but may look through one. The may also view your place from neighboring property.
Inspectors are badged, wear a name tag, a black pullover with the city's logo on it and they drive a North Port Neighborhood Development vehicle. Anyone with less gear or demanding payment should get a door slam and be reported, Raducci said.