Code-enforcement lien sparks discussion

Commissioners in Winter Garden had differing opinions on city staff’s recommendation to approve the reduction and removal of a code enforcement lien for Lott’s Concrete.

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Commissioners in Winter Garden had differing opinions on city staff’s recommendation to approve the reduction and removal of a code enforcement lien for Lott’s Concrete at the Thursday, Feb. 23, City Commission meeting. 

In explaining the case, Assistant City Manager for Public Services Steve Pash said the property had undergone years of interaction with the Code Enforcement Board. 

After being cited for multiple violations with official citations issued in May 2021, the board posted fines on the property in the amount of $2,000 per day in August 2022. 

Pash said the business addressed most of the issues.

“Some of those were the most important where we had buildings that had been built without permits and electrical work that had been done, so we’re concerned for safety,” Pash said. 

Once the fines were imposed, Pash said Lott’s brought the remaining titles into compliance by Oct. 26, 2022, stopping the fines at a total of $168,000.

Rick Higgins, general manager of Lott’s, requested the fines be reduced to $62,000 in an email.

“We have been a staple in this community since 1968 and helped in the large growth of this area, along with employing several people within the community,” Higgins wrote. “We will continue to operate here and in a much better/cleaner manner than what happened before I took over as the general manager. We hope you consider this offer and we can put this behind us and move forward with a partnership within our community.”

After review, staff deemed the requested amount appropriate; it covers costs incurred by the process.

Commissioner Lisa Bennett, whose first home was in Glynwood in the late 1980s, said she knows the area well and imagines many of the buildings in question are old and built sometime back. 

Pash said a lot of the buildings had been rebuilt over the years without permits. He said the Lott’s owner had hired an engineer to review and produce plans for the buildings that had been constructed without permit after the fines had been imposed. 

The building plans were submitted and approved for permits starting on Sept. 27, 2022.

Although Bennett said it’s not unusual for the city to roll back fines and fees if the amount required covers the actual cost incurred with staff, Commissioner Ron Mueller disagreed on the amount requested by Lott’s.

Mueller said he knows the city has dealt with similar issues before with situations that were carried on for longer than they should have been. He suggested splitting the overall fine cost in half and requiring $84,000 to be paid in fees. 

“I understand everything that you’re saying, but they’ve been an integral part of our community for a long time …so I’m OK with it,” Mayor John Rees said of the original request presented by Pash. 

Commissioner Mark A. Maciel also voiced his opinion, saying he knows staff put a lot of thought into the matter presented.

“I tend to lean and rely on staff’s recommendation of this, just because they deal with this on a day-to-day basis,” he said. 

Bennett also mentioned Lott’s, which is in her district, has provided jobs and paid a lot of taxes over the years, which have helped the community grow and prosper. 

“I’m not going to get into staff recommendations on things like this,” Mueller said. “The scope and breadth of this to have carried on as long as it did; you know there’s a reason that they were fined. … $62,000 is a little too low for me.”

The commission approved the reduction,  with Mueller dissenting. 



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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