Springfield Preservationist: City Municipal Code Restricts Owners | News

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Springfield Preservationist: City Municipal Code Restricts Owners
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Springfield is trying to restore its glory days one house at a time, but for some property owners, it is a slow and costly process that ends with the city condemning the property.

"There are a 140 condemned properties and it is a big problem," said Gloria DeVall.

DeVall is a contractor, home owner, and vice president of Save Our Springfield. She said the city's muncipal code hampers their efforts.

"We should be making it easier for people to work here and it is not," she said.

A bone of contention is the unlawful entry provision of the code.

When the city condemns a house, the owner needs city permission to enter his own property -- without it, the owner may be arrested.

"This has made it a lot more difficult to get into properties," said DeVall, "to look at them to determine what needs to be done."

City Councilman Robin Lumb said change is needed to find a balance between the preservation efforts and the intent of the muncipal code.

"I'm trying to get a moratorium pass that would put a halt to all demolitions," he said.

Lumb said he's not critical of the municipal code compliance division but perhaps the city is too quick to condemn and demolish what is deemed historic.

"We need to go back and revisit the ordinance code as it applies to historic preservation," he said.

Lumb wants to get rid of rolling fees. Some are in excess of $100,000, more than the property is valued.

He also wants to look at the unlawful entry provision.

"If they present the city with a plan for remediation to bring the property into compliance I think they should be granted access," said Lumb.

Lumb said because the city was quick to demolish a Springfield property, city council is now considering legislation to pay the owner $150,000 to settle a lawsuit.

City Attorney Jason Teal said  the unlawful entry provision of the code is standard with municipalities. He said the objective is to control access to unsafe structures for public health and safety.

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