Homeowner: City penalizing me for neighbor's dead tree | News

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Homeowner: City penalizing me for neighbor's dead tree
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Benjamin Cole has lived on Brandywine Street for decades but said the last six months have been very difficult.

"I got physically sick yesterday and as you can see now I am still upset," he said.

Cole said he's upset because Jacksonville City Hall, in his eyes, has failed him again.

"I've been complaining for six months about them coming out to cut this tree down," he said.

Cole lives at 873. The city has a case history for 865 Brandywine. The history shows a city contract was issued on February 18 to cut down the dead tree,but the tree fell before they could do it.

Immediately, it became a civil issue between Cole and his neighbor. But on Monday, Cole received a post inspection from the city.

"They came out and said they were coming out to check on it and told me now the scope of work has changed," said Cole. "For now, that the tree has fallen it is our responsibility."

The tree trunk is still in the neighbor's yard, but the middle section that fell is on Cole's chain linked fence. "It is ridiculous, it is ridiculous," he said.

Cole, who complained to code enforcement about the dead tree in the first place, said now he has now become the code violator and that has him confused.

"Because of the part of the tree that is on my property, the middle part of the tree, and that was the comment from Mark Mitchell he said it is now your responsibility. I don't understand," he said.

So to avoid any potential penalties, Cole said he will clean up the tree.

"I'm going to get a couple of estimates," he said, "I'm not going to take any chances because those fees are high."

Then he plans to sue his neighbor; he thought he was being a good citizen when he complained about the code violation, now he wonders if it was worth it.

The city's Municipal Code Compliance Division said Mr. Cole's statement about citation and penalties is not true.

In an email we were told that Mark Mitchell, MCCD's Contract Compliance Inspector, performed a contract-related inspection at 865 Brandywine Street – the cited property.

And he is not a Code Enforcement Officer. Also there is no legal reason to charge fines or penalties against Mr. Cole.

"The division cannot charge fines/penalties against a property without an active enforcement case," wrote Kimberly Scott, "Since no "file" or enforcement case exists for the property at 873 Brandywine – this statement is not true."

Scott said no "post-inspection interview" exists within Municipal Code Compliance Division (MCCD does not conduct interviews for inspections).

Scott added in her email:

"Mark Mitchell, a Contract Compliance Inspector, is not a Code Compliance Officer, the position, which cites properties. Mark mentioned Mr. Cole approached him during a site visit to check current status of the tree for the purpose of re-bid and subsequent removal of the remaining tree and parts, since the scope of work changed. Mark mentioned Mr. Cole seemed angry, but Mark was on-site to address re-bid for removal of the tree remains, due to change in scope of work. Once abatement occurs at 865 Brandywine Street, the property will receive a nuisance abatement lien. In summary, Mr. Cole's reported concerns are not true."


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