EAST TAMPA- Residents here say they are weary of commercial activities on a parcel whose owners somehow avoid retribution from city code enforcement officials.
Most recently, the residents say, they have put up with a truck repair business that is not permitted but generates truck traffic day and night, and creates dust and noise in the neighborhood. Some residents even say they have seen people bathing outside behind modular trailers on the property at 5315 N. 37th St., off East Hillsborough Avenue.
"It's just very frustrating. I just want them to be brought to justice," said resident Toinette Gaines, who lives across from the repair business. "We've been dealing with this way too long."
Tampa City Council members discussed the matter at a workshop Thursday.
Code enforcement officials said the property owner, Spencer Kass, is under a July 15 deadline to provide a site plan that includes parking spaces, landscaping and fencing. Other deadlines also are in place into November so that code enforcement can monitor progress and impose fines if there are violations. A commercial permit must be obtained by Aug. 26, city officials said.
County records show Landmarc Realty, co-owned by Kass, bought the commercially-zoned lot in 2006 for $660,000.
Kass said he wasn't notified of Thursday's workshop. He denied there are code violations at the property. "There is an accusation of a violation. The only issue is they want a site plan," he said. "The use is 100 percent legal. It's beyond me what's going on."
Kass said when his tenant tried to file a required "change of use" form to show he would be operating a vehicle repair business, there was no such form available. "We've bent over backward to comply with weird and wacky regulations of Tampa," he said.
Jake Slater, the city's code enforcement director, said he has been frustrated with the slow process "with everything we have to work with under the law."
But, he said, "Now it's time for the property owner to do what is right. We're going to hold him to the fire."
Councilman Frank Reddick was skeptical because the property has been cited repeatedly for at least six years. "Tell me what is going to be different," he said.
About six years ago Rusty's Pallet Service operated at the address. Residents provided the city with a petition asking officials to shut it down. Code enforcement officials then said the business was operating illegally.
Residents said tractor-trailers rumbled through the neighborhood 24 hours a day when the pallet business operated at the property. They also complained about rats and snakes breeding beneath pallet piles and about the sound of pallets being assembled.
Fines of $250 a day began accumulating against Rusty's Pallet in 2005, at one time topping $200,000. It is not clear if fines were collected.
Rusty's Pallet closed when Landmarc bought the site.
Councilman Charlie Miranda said the council will be reviewing code enforcement efforts at a future workshop. He also asked city officials to compile a complete history of the property including code enforcement, business permits, real estate inquiries and any interactions with city government.