INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – For the seventh time, the county will send a lawn crew to the defunct Vista Garden golf course to cut back the overgrown weeds.
This time, however, will be different as the county plans to foreclose on the property to force the owner to pay off the liens placed on the site – an amount approaching $8,000.
“The owner is gaming the system,” Commission Chair Bob Solari.
Charles Sullivan Jr. has said publicly in the media that the county is able to mow the property for less money that it would cost him to hire someone to do it.
Solari told his fellow commissioners this week that the county won’t be able to recover the taxpayers’ money that was used to mow the property, and with no interest accruing on the liens, there is no incentive for the owner to mow.
He recommended that the commissioners encourage the Code Enforcement Board to open a new nuisance complaint against Vista Golf and have a fine accrue daily.
County Attorney Alan Polackwich informed the commissioners that a $500,000 mortgage has been taken on the property. That mortgage – nearly $200,000 more than what the property is valued at – will now take precedence to any future liens the county places on it.
The $6,710 in liens already in place have a higher priority than the mortgage in the event of a foreclosure, Polackwich said.
Polackwich offered alternatives to a foreclosure, which include filing an injunction seeking a court order to bring the property into compliance with county code and assessing a daily fine on the current lien.
“It puts some amount of pressure on the owners,” Polackwich said.
He told commissioners that each time he has reached out to the owners, they have expressed willingness to pay back the county. Polackwich added that he has asked the attorney representing the Sullivans if they would agree to putting all the county’s liens before the mortgage but had not yet heard back.
“We do need to do something different,” Commissioner Wesley Davis said.
The county’s Code Enforcement Board declared the 27-hole golf course a public health and safety risk in August 2009 after residents complained about the tall weeds. Concerns were raised about the potential for fire risk.