TAMPA — The dilapidated condition of a Hyde Park historic house, located less than one block from Bayshore Boulevard, has bothered its neighbors for years.
It’s an eyesore, they say, and brings down property values of nearby homes. During Halloween and Gasparilla, it’s a bulls-eye target for trash and litter.
So, after years of stalled construction work and failed inspections, Tampa’s code enforcement board on Wednesday gave the owners a deadline to fix the situation or begin paying hefty fines.
The board found the owners of the house at 722 S. Fielding Ave., Herbert and Jill Wax, in violation of city code and historic preservation guidelines. They have 30 days to secure the house and 90 days to address historic preservation concerns or pay $75 and $100, respectively, for each day the house isn’t in compliance.
The wood-frame home, built in 1913, has a tarp for walls, and there are piles of wood and debris in the yard.
At the code enforcement hearing, the Waxes’ attorney, Patrick Poff, asked the board to delay action because of a lawsuit the Waxes have filed against the contractor. The Waxes say they have paid him more than $1 million since 2007 to work on their house, but he has abandoned the project.
They can’t afford to do more work on the property until the suit is resolved; and even if they could, other contractors don’t want to work on the house because the first contractor holds the building permits, Poff said.
But board members agreed with code enforcement and historic preservation officials that some work needs to be done for safety reasons and to prevent more damage to the historic structure. That means taking steps such as repairing the roof and exterior of the house to prevent water intrusion and stop the deterioration.
Since failing the last inspection, the property owners only have covered the walls with a tarp and cleaned up the yard, said Dennis Fernandez, the city’s historic preservation manager. The department appreciates the effort, he said, but that is not an acceptable solution.
“We really haven’t gotten anywhere other than to put a wrap on this unfinished project,” Fernandez said.
The Waxes bought the house in 1989 for $375,000. They received city approval and began work to restore it in February 2007, court records show, but the work never was completed. The house has been in extreme disrepair ever since.
Nobody is more heartbroken about the situation than the Waxes, Poff told the board.
“These are extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “The owners have been doing everything within their legal power to bring about a remedy.” firstname.lastname@example.org