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Cape eyes ways to boost code enforcement compliance

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | May 26, 2023

The city of Cape Coral is looking at stronger code enforcement to keep property owners compliant.

Mayor John Gunter said Cape Coral City Council needs to figure out where it wants to be and develop policies, regulations and criteria and then give code enforcement the tools they need to go out there and make sure residents are adhering.

“We are not where we want to be. It’s no fault of any one particular person. What we have in place now is broken,” Gunter said.

Code Compliance Manager Todd Hoagland said the city’s proactive compliance rate was around 50 percent in 2018, which has since raised to 74.3 percent, just shy of the 75 percent goal. Code compliance has 30 staff members for a city that is 120 square miles and enforcing more than 900 codes.

“We are constantly working towards that. We are out in the field proactively enforcing,” he said. “Together it is going to take a team to approach the issue and address it.”

A presentation was also given Wednesday by Baker Tilly’s Senior Consultant Chris Strom regarding an audit that provided many recommendations. Included was aligning standard operating procedures with municipal codes; realigning duties, responsibilities and balanced workloads; training sessions; expectations on how to govern property code ordinances; and updating code enforcement sections.

A key message Hoagland shared dealt with the power of education. A new brochure has been completed, which is available at City Hall and such places as real estate offices.

Hoagland said they are taking a task force approach, which will include the Code Compliance Division staff, Land Development Division, Planning and Zoning Division, as well as Stormwater and Solid Waste in Public Works, arborist and Fire and Police.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard told Hoagland that if they do not have the tools for enforcement, to please educate the council of what is needed, so they can fix it.

“How do we design a level of expectation that we can enforce and keep it there?” he said. “To come up with a level of expectations only benefits the business and community with value. I don’t want to keep spitting in the wind on this.”

Sheppard shared some examples, such as commercial properties putting in landscaping, but a year later the mulch is nonexistent.

“To me there should be a requirement. If that is a detail that needs to be written, maybe we need to work on that,” Sheppard said. “I don’t want to waste your officers’ time. I don’t want council members and citizens calling about a business that is looking horrible, but they don’t have the tools to enforce anything. Please educate us on the ones that need to be relooked at and adjusted, so we can accomplish these things.”