Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Vann awarded $5000 CRA grant on split decision

Last night's Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) meeting was where the action was as long time business owner Marc Vann's Façade Improvement Grant Application was the first application considered by the CRA Board, which is the City Council.

Jackie KiteCRA director Jackie Kite opened the hearing. She explained that the City just discovered that afternoon that there was a $5,000 City lien on Mr. Vann's property, for code enforcement fines. Ms. Kite said that the $5,000 represented one hundred days of violation at fifty dollars a day in 2008. Ms. Kite said that it was "a hundred days before the property was brought into compliance."

Mr. Vann explained that he and Mr. Ward (Councilman George Ward) had spoken about the lien in the past. Mr. Vann explained that the property had been cleaned up within two or three days of receiving the violation.  Mr. Vann said the fine was assessed because he did not notify the city that the property had been cleaned up.

Marc Vann        Marc Vann

The Lake City Code Enforcement Board found that Mr. Vann did not clean up his property and that the violation was a "repeat violation."

Mr. Vann had thirty days to appeal the findings and the fine of the Code Violations Board. He did not.

Mr. Vann said, "As you all know it (the property) is four blocks up the street from the city hall.

Long time City Attorney Herbert Darby said Mr. Vann could appeal the decision of the Code Violation's Board to the City Council. Mr. Darby did not explain how Mr. Vann could overcome the "thirty day" appeal requirement of the City Ordinance, which came and went over two years ago.

Jake HillCouncilman Jake Hill was not impressed by what he heard.

Mayor Witt asked, "Is the building is for sale?"

Mr. Vann: "Yes sir, the building is for sale."

Ms. Kite explained that the Façade Grant Policy does not state that there is a "no lien" policy in the Grant Program.

Ms. Kite also explained that the Grant Policy stated that the property be maintained for three years and that no adjustments be made to the repairs.

Councilman Hill stated that he thought that the money was being spent to "board up their property."

Councilman Jefferson asked Building Department Director, Larry Lee, "Is the property in compliance now?"

Jake Hill and George WardCouncilmen Hill and Ward weighed in on different sides of the issue.

Director Lee: "I recon it needs cleaning up again."

Director Kite: "But it doesn't have an open code violation."

Mr. Vann addressed the Council again and said that he was doing "what was recommended by the city about seven years ago. He said when he bought the building every window had been replaced.

Councilman JeffersonCouncilman Jefferson was not swayed by the argument and weighed in against giving Mr. Vann the $5000 grant.

Mr. Vann explained that the building was used every day until six months ago and that he got the first code violation two years after he bought it.

Mr. Vann said he went to Code Enforcement and said that he was getting a code violation for something he had no control over. He said, "We can't keep people from throwing rocks. "It's a target – They keep throwing rocks."

Mr. Vann said there is no alternative to his proposal to fill in the windows with Hardie Plank and the building is for sale.

Mr. Vann said that if he replaced the windows "they'd be broke in the mornin."

Mr. Vann said there is no other solution. "The windows had been being broken out since 1947 and no one has figured out how to stop it yet."

Lexan is an alternative for the Vann Proposal. Neither the City nor Mr. Vann looked into it. (Go here to find out more about Lexan).

Mr. Vann said it was the "management team" that suggested the style of improvement and they "made the suggestion to us."

Mr. Vann did not explain who the City's management team was.

Councilman Hill said he didn't have a problem with Mr. Vann fixing up the building or the City helping him. Mr. Hill said he had a problem with helping to pay for the repairs, while Mr. Vann is trying to sell the building.

Councilman Jefferson referring to the City's lien on the Vann property said, "This needs to be looked into, so we don't need to deal with this in the future... The property owner has an obligation to settle those liens if there are liens on it."

Mr. Jefferson said, "We need to do some fine tuning of this policy."

Councilman Ward weighed in. He agreed with Mr. Jefferson that the policy needed to be "fine tuned."

Mr. Ward said, "I don't think you can reject this totally at this point and say we're gonna redraw the rules and you have to come back and play another game in a different way."

Mayor Witt: "The TIF funds are to improve the downtown."

Mr. Vann came back to speak again. He told Mr. Hill, "The people that owned the property have paid all the TIF funds... We are not asking for a free handout."

Mr. Hill said that he thought that Mr. Vann and Mr. Ward "had got your heads together on this thing, but that's just my opinion."

Mr. Ward said, "You are wrong... I hadn't talked to him about the façade grant -- I talked to him about the lien. Mayor, I move that we approve the façade grant."

Councilwoman Moses said, "The bottom line is we want the downtown to look better."

Mr. Vann received his five thousand dollar grant on a three to two split decision, with Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hill voting nay.

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