I have no hesitation calling out our local elected officials when they deserve to be raked over the coals for poor decisions. Equally so, I should be ready to offer words of praise when their actions stand out as honorable and deserving of admiration.
This week I find myself pondering such praise for a Commissioner, who I would have preferred not to have won the election this past November, our former Mayor and newly elected City Commissioner Gary Resnick.
For far too many years, a certain commercial property on Andrews Avenue has been a danger to the safety and welfare of residents, left abandoned, neglected and a major attraction for the area’s homeless population.
Making matters worse, this property stands as an entranceway to our fine city at the busy intersection of Andrews Avenue and Oakland Park Blvd. This cancerous deterioration is a blight for the surrounding neighbors, our Andrews Avenue community, and our entire city.
The owner of this property is not someone who has fallen on hard times, or someone who has suffered from health issues or someone experiencing other extraneous circumstances that could excuse the years of neglect that our city has had to endure.
On the contrary, the owners of this property, the Warrington family, are very wealthy, own multiple commercial properties along Andrews Avenue, and care absolutely nothing about the effects of their neglect on our neighbors or on the public safety of our community.
Code Enforcement and city staff have done their duty identifying the issues with this property over the years. They have reached out to the owners, issued citations, sought ways to bring this property back from the neglected condition, and offered endless outreach to the wealthy family trust that owns the property.
Our city staff finally received the first formidable response from these carpetbaggers only after code violation fines accrued to such a burdensome amount that allowed the city to file foreclosure proceedings against the property.
This wealthy family now looks for every excuse under the sun, such as ill-served notice, health issues, and numerous other excuses in an attempt to explain why such problems have gone on for so long.
This past week, their lien reduction request came before our City Commission. What makes this even more outrageous is that the family suddenly snapped out of their state of confusion to hire a very prominent local attorney to make the request that our City Commission approve reducing over $436,000 in accrued fines to the measly, insulting amount of just a bit over $18,000. I could only wish to get a similar reduction in bills that I need to pay at the end of the month.
Here is where I give Commissioner Gary Resnick the praise he so righteously deserves. During the discussion, Commissioner Resnick forcibly pointed out the years of neglect of this property located at such a prominent entranceway into our wonderful city.
He went on to state that this family should be embarrassed over the state of their properties here in Wilton Manors while at the same time donating millions to have their family name placed upon a building at the University of Florida campus.
In 2014, theWarrington family gave $75 million to the university, the largest donation in the school’s history. Commissioner Resnick made a very solid, well thought-out motion to have a lien reduction in line with the extent of neglect our community has had to suffer over the years.
Unfortunately, Commissioner Resnick was joined only by Commissioner Rolli, who equally stated strong support for keeping the lien reduction to a minimum. What passed was a reduction of over 70 percent of fines owed to the city, not a bad night for the Warrington Family.
We can only hope that their prominent local attorney was able to deliver something in return for such a huge reduction. Giving such a large lien reduction and having the property continue to sit there in its present condition does nothing for our city.
The property owner has demonstrated no community interest what-so-ever in our wonderful city, and the lien reduction should have been proportional to the amount of their involvement and commitment over the years—zilch—nada—nothing.
So, kudos to Commissioners Resnick and Rolli.
Thank you both for pointing out that commercial property owners must have a responsibility to maintain their properties, to support the surrounding communities, and have a commitment to be a good neighbor. Commission actions should not look to undermine the work done by a pro-active, strong code enforcement policy. These policies protect the quality of life in our Island City and are a major factor in what keeps life just better here.