City Code Fails to Protect Residential Homeowner!

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Attached below are the relevant excerpts of an email that I sent to all 5 City Council Members on Friday, April 28, 2017. I received immediate responses from both Council Members Andrea O’Rourke and Scott Singer, but no one else to date:

“Dear Council Members,

I am contacting you to alert you to a detrimental loophole that currently exists in the City of Boca Raton Building Codes that I have just personally experienced.

My wife and I were away on vacation for three weeks returning on Wednesday night, April 12th. The next morning, we noticed that a large piece of demolition equipment was parked on our neighbor’s property. We were aware that the house had been sold and that the new owner was eventually planning to demolish the existing home and replace it with a modern two-unit home.

I found out later in the week that the demolition contractor did send out certified letters to most of the surrounding neighbors. For some reason, my wife and I, living right next door, were not included on the demolition contractor’s certified letter distribution list. I stopped by the City’s Building Department on Monday afternoon, April 17th, to inform them that I had not received the certified letter from the demolition contractor. They assured me that the Building Department would contact the contractor to request a certified letter be sent to me as soon as possible. I also called the demolition contractor that same afternoon (Monday, April 17th) to inform them that I had not been sent the certified letter, and I requested that the company owner call me to discuss the possibility of installing a temporary plastic or screened barrier fence to protect not only my adjacent property but the other properties directly to the east and south. Needless to say, I received neither the certified letter nor a call back from the demolition contractor.

Yesterday, Thursday afternoon, April 27th, the demolition began without any notice to my neighbors or me. I went back to the Building Department this morning (Friday, April 28th), and I was informed that the current Building Codes for residential demolitions do not legally require the contractor or property owner to contact the neighboring properties to inform them of any imminent residential building demolition. In addition, there is no Building Code requirement for the new property owner to install a barrier fence to prevent debris, dust and dirt from blowing or falling onto the neighboring properties during the demolition and subsequent new building construction. Also, there is no requirement for running water to be available on the demolition site to mitigate the dust and dirt generated during the demolition process.

I find it unbelievable that such “resident friendly” provisions are not already included in the City’s Building Codes to protect neighboring properties during the demolition process and subsequent new construction on “tear down” residential property lots in Boca Raton. I kindly request that you and your fellow Council Members seriously consider revising the City Building Codes to include provisions to legally require both the demolition contractor and the new property owner/general contractor to inform all of the neighboring property owners of their intention and schedule to demolish the building as well as the construction of the new building on the now vacant property. In addition, a “temporary” barrier fence should be legally mandated to be installed along the entire closed perimeter of the property to physically protect the neighboring properties during the demolition process and subsequent new building construction. These new provisions would go a long way to mitigating the adverse impact on the neighboring property owners during the demolition and construction process, and they are long overdue with the substantial amount of “tear downs” occurring throughout the City of Boca Raton.”

After sending out this email to the 5 City Council Members, Andrea O’Rourke and Scott Singer contacted the City Manager, Leif Ahnell, and they received the following response from Mr. Ahnell:

“The Florida Building Code requires fencing or other barriers at construction sites, depending on the circumstances, the rule of thumb being that a barrier is required when any activity is taking place within ½ of the height of the building being constructed, measured from the lot line. To the immediate question, yes, other cities do have specific and varied requirements for screening and otherwise mitigating demolition and construction activities, and we are working on researching some specifics. No one here is aware of any cities that require mailed notification of demolitions, but we are doing more research on that, too.”

I would like to officially notify the City of Boca Raton that an ordinance needs to be generated and eventually passed by the City Council Members that contains, at a minimum, the following requirements for both the demolition contractor and the property owner/general contractor on “tear down” residential lots within the City of Boca Raton:

1) The owner/general contractor and/or the demolition contractor must submit via certified mail (return receipt requested) a tentative demolition and/or construction schedule to all neighboring property owners at least 2 weeks prior to the initial demolition or construction activity on the site.
2) There must be access to running water on the site and the water must be utilized to mitigate the dirt, dust and blowing trash on the site during all demolition and construction activities.

3) The owner/general contractor (or demolition contractor) must erect a temporary barrier fence around the entire closed perimeter of the property to prevent debris, dust, dirt and trash from entering onto the adjacent properties.
4) The owner/general contractor and demolition contractor must adequately clean the site, sidewalk and adjacent roadway on a daily basis to mitigate any rocks, nails, trash or other debris from leaving the residential property construction/demolition site.

5) All construction and employee vehicles must be parked on the demolition – construction property site to avoid blocking adjacent driveways and causing congestion on the local residential streets.

Hopefully, the City Council Members will all agree that protecting their constituents’ right to live comfortably and peacefully in their own neighborhoods is of paramount importance. I am personally willing to volunteer my time to work with City Staff to assist their efforts in crafting the language for a new “resident friendly” ordinance to lessen the impact of the many upcoming “tear down” residential projects here in Boca Raton.

Unfortunately, it is too late to solve my livability problem but I can only hope that our combined efforts to push this proposed ordinance forward will save many Boca Raton residents from the same dirt, dust and frustration that my wife and I have recently experienced.

Let’s do the right and proper thing here…….

9 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! When my house was tented for termites I had to let my neighbors know. Demolition is a much bigger project!

  2. Having demolished several homes in Boca, I agree about the need to have water sprayed on the demolished structure during the process. I’m not supportive of the request for noice or fencing as they are unnecessary requests. Daily cleaning should be a practice but is hard to quantify or police to a specific exact degree. It becomes somewhat subjective.

  3. I just went through this painful journey. In short, don’t expect the City to be on the side of the little (residential) guy/gal. They will always side with the money, regardless of the situation. At best, the City will look away. You’ll have to depend on the “kindness” of the builder. Good luck.

  4. We live in a 72 unit condo building off of Camino that has been under construction since September 2016 — 1st out of hatred the Board placed the porta potty directly below my bedroom window — took code 3 weeks to force the Board to move it 10 ft from the building (they said their is no ordinance about porta potty placement!) common sense should tell you strong odors come from it !!!! The contractor said they would never plays a porta potty in under someone’s window but the board directed them to do that!
    To top that ..We went down to the city a few owners since the project was taking so long to see the permits that were pulled and we found out it was only a permit for ‘concrete restoration’. And a new railing to be installed .. meanwhile the whole pool was being reconstructed without permits –no electric permits no plumbing permits… we wrote to Mayor Haynie as this can be a safety issue in March –she sent it to building and City officials and in April a Stop work order was issued 7 months after the job started and only because this Board/Contractor was ‘caught’. Did they even apply for the permits!!! How in the world can this happen !!!! And on the application for the permits they just signed ‘certifies’ the electrical/plumbing wasn’t even done yet and it had been in March!!! Just utterly amazing.

  5. Welcome to my world ! When the house on BR road was demolished and was FILLED with mildew, i notified city council..
    All the houses around me bulldozed, no written notice. There seems to be a “select” information notification, and no one knows what that is.

  6. Sorry you didn’t get the notice.

    It is nice to think that more controls will result in the desired outcomes but rarely are the unintended consequences considered.
    The fencing alone should add about 20% to the demolition process…

    I find it illuminating to note that the building code is the absolutely poorest quality allowed and by its very nature thwarts innovation and creativity. Did you know it takes about 50 years on average for innovations in the construction industry to be widely accepted….in electronics it takes 6 months! Why?

    Although one may feel the ‘demolition’ process will become much less invasive the reality is a fence and water will be almost inconsequential save for the added costs, more noise, pollution, delays by the city and the further erosion of freedom (innovation and creativity).

    Remember that catchy phrase “time is money”. Demolishing a house takes all of two days and it may happen next to you once in a lifetime but the consequences of more regulations will affect everyone in the community for generations who want to add a room or build a house.

    The American Dream has plummeted to 51% home ownership today. Very few young people can afford a home at current costs, add a few regulations and it can only get worse; …for two days of inconvenience? If you must, have the city stick a notice on the property when permitted, before demolition and remove the notice for later use. (Lets not pollute.)

    How about zero interest financing, cisterns, micro-generation, etc. and reduce & improve the regulations to promote innovations and a robust housing sector (more homes), after all don’t we want to leave our children with a better world.

  7. I really am really amazed at the lack of concern for residents, which this city is showing. Don’t we have elections to put people in office to protect us from the abuses of inconsiderate builders and contractors? How about running this City like a first class metropolitan area, not like some backwards hillbilly town, where the officials get paid to look the other way?

    • Murray, you just hit on the reason on why Boca Watch exists. Next elections are march 2018. Hang around and
      see what happens.

  8. I am a contractor and have been involved in several demolition and reconstruction projects in the City of Boca Raton. Though I think it would be courteous to notify adjacent homeowners of pending demolition it should seem obvious to those nearby that the process was about to begin. I guess prior notice might allow for rescheduling of events during demolition, but otherwise what purpose does it serve? I agree water supply should be available to minimize dust and debris and is generally common practice of reputable and responsible contractors. Likewise perimeter silt fencing does minimize blowing debris from adjacent properties and routing policing of nails and screws in the street should also be performed, and usually is by courteous responsible contractors.

    Parking on site is a different issue, when possible this should be the norm, but more often than not it is impossible to achieve.

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