By Patricia Huff
For the past two years, visitors to the Historic Smallwood Store and Museum have had to drive through the unsightly property owned by Florida-Georgia Grove LLC (FGG) on Mamie Street in Chokoloskee.
In August of 2012, Collier County Code Enforcement Office sent a notice of violation to FGG to clean up its property. For the past four months, the county has been going through the same process as it did just one year ago. Code Enforcement has sent an inspector out to the site on six different occasions to see if the violation is still outstanding, and on every visit they have found it “non-compliant.” Because of the property owners’ negligence, the county has had to continue driving back and forth to Chokoloskee.
This month, Code Enforcement was required to “escalate to legal” the process. According to the County Code Enforcement Department “The investigator conducted a site visit on November 15, 2013; he observed the violation remained and posted a Notice of Hearing. The case is scheduled for hearing before the Special Magistrate on December 6, 2013.”
So, this is how our tax dollars are being spent; having to inspect and re-inspect six different times and now take FGG to court because they continue to violate county laws. This is the same property owner that bulldozed the only accessible road to the Smallwood Store and Museum, an historic museum listed on the National Register.
As you may recall, it was determined by the Collier County Court in October 2011, and the Appellate Court in January 2012, that Mamie Street was a publicly designated road, as it has been for 100 years. The county attorney has recommended that the county commissioners vote to sign an agreement with Florida-Georgia Grove LLC that would require the county to “vacate” this public road, thereby giving the road to FGG (which reverses the Court’s decision). Although the settlement agreement requires FGG to provide access to the Smallwood Store, it would be a private road and thus giving them the option to relocate the road.
Why should Mamie Street not remain a public road? Should it not be the county’s responsibility (the position BCC took two years ago) to fight for the right of its citizens and its visitors to keep Mamie Street public, as deemed by its own court system? If this is a public process, a public meeting, a public hearing, and a public road, should the Board of County Commissioners’ decision to vacate not be based on what the public wishes?
A Public Hearing has been scheduled for 9 AM on Tuesday, December 10, in the County Commissioners Boardroom, 3rd Floor, Administration Building, Collier County Government Center, 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, Florida. If you wish to express your opinion, please attend the meeting or contact your County Commissioner at 239-252-8097 or see website www.colliergov.net for email addresses.