Kay Ashton takes a lot of pride in keeping her Port Richey home looking good. But the beauty of her block stops across the street. Items at her neighbor's home are piled so high, the garage doors won't shut.
"It's just gradually gotten worse. It started out as just a little clutter and not taking care of things, and now it's gotten to the point it looks like a junk yard over there," said Ashton.
Pasco County has issued repeated code violations to the homeowner over the past several years and has done some big clean-ups, but the mess always returns. The county's code enforcement division says sometimes owners ignore their warnings or just pay the fines and keep causing problems.
"In 80 percent of the cases, warnings and citations work out very, very well. But it's that other 20 percent that causes the most problems in the community and really drains our resources," said Dr. Marc Bellas, Pasco Co. organizational performance management director.
That's why the county's now cracking down. In a team effort across seven departments, the worst, repeat offenders will now face the courts. Both commercial and residential property owners can be slapped with an injunction forcing them to comply, and if they don't, they face the possibility of jail time.
"If now the fines or increased, or there's jail time, we've got a better chance of stopping that activity at the top," Bellas said.
Kay Ashton's glad to hear the county's taking this more aggressive approach.
"It's not accomplishing anything the way it's been working," said Ashton.
The new initiative's already had one early success. A shuttered Holiday gas station was a mess until the owner was taken to court this month, and now the property's been cleaned up. The county hopes the ramped up enforcement will now continue improving the community's health, safety, and outward appearances.