Commissioners don’t budge from $253,000 Barton property lien

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The mortgage company left on the hook with the Lewis Barton property in Vero Beach is still saddled with the former owner’s $253,000-lien from code enforcement issues.

The company, City First Mortgage Co., had asked the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday to decrease the lien to $60,000. County staff recommended a figure between $80,000 and $100,000. Commissioners, however, chose neither, citing concerns for the residents near the barrier island home and taxpayers.

Commissioner Wesley Davis said there was no purchase agreement between the mortgage company and potential new owner, which might have swayed him to approve the compromised lien amount.

Instead, Davis said the mortgage company’s request was more a matter of convenience than of necessity.

Commissioner Gary Wheeler echoed similar sentiments, adding he doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for City First.

The lien was placed on the property, located at 2025 Surfside Terrace, Vero Beach, five years before the mortgage was issued, county staff told commissioners.

“That’s what concerns me,” Wheeler said, explaining the mortgage company did something – issued the mortgage – it should not have done.

County Attorney Will Collins told commissioners Tuesday that time is running out for the county to collect on the liens, citing a 20-year statute of limitations.

He recommended commissioners accept City First’s offer of $82,000, which would help to offset the costs the county has tied up in the case’s litigation.

“A bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit,” Collins said, explaining that the county would be taking a risk if it did not approve the compromise.

“I’m not willing to do anything today,” Davis said.

The battle over the property started in the mid to late 1990s, when fines began accruing at a rate of $100 a day in 1997 for a concrete sea wall Barton attempted to build.

In 2006, the fines stopped because Hurricane Jeanne blew through, ripping off the roof and second story, forcing Barton to tear down the house.

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