Pasco County moves to speed up demolitions

Pasco County has new rules aimed at speeding up the demolition of blighted, and unsafe commercial buildings.

The Pasco County Commission initially agreed in August to amend an existing ordinance to make the process faster, after Kristi Sims, a senior assistant county attorney, presented the ordinance.

The final ordinance, approved by commissioners on Sept. 26 in New Port Richey, requires demolition within 30 days of a posted notice that a building is unsafe or unsound, and must be torn down.

Previously, the ordinance required action within 60 days of the notice.

Pasco also will no longer publish demolition notices in newspapers. Instead, public notification will be posted on the county’s website and at the county’s government centers in east and west Pasco.

That change allows building inspectors to post notice at the targeted site and online the same day. Previously, they had to factor in the print publication date.

Appeals will be decided by volunteers serving on the Pasco County Construction Board. Previously, county commissioners heard appeals.

Appeals must be made within 30 days. The cost is $400.

Sims said committee members will receive a list of criteria to use as guidelines for reaching their decisions.

Committee members were consulted beforehand about their new role. Members come from the construction industry and already handle appeals related to licensing and permitting.

Some of their hearing duties will be reduced to allow time for demolition hearings, Sims said.

“They all seemed very comfortable with sitting as a quasi-judicial fact-finder (committee),” she said.

The construction board during appeals will consider plans submitted to rehabilitate properties. Plans must be specific as to how and when repairs will be made in timely manner.

Owners filing appeals also can contest whether the condemned building meets the county’s criteria for demolition, or whether demolition can be completed in a timely manner.

This latest tightening of code enforcement efforts is part of a long-range plan county commissioners have pursued in the past two years to reduce blight.

Their focus has been on neglected properties along major corridors including U.S. 19, U.S. 301 and U.S. 41.

Published Oct. 11, 2017

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