Barton property’s $253,000 lien still stands

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – County commissioners have not outright ruled out cutting a deal with a mortgage company to decrease the $253,000-lien placed on a Vero Beach home. However, they are not ready to drop the amount to $90,000 as the company has requested.

“They weren’t the bad guys in this,” said attorney Bruce Barkett, who represents City First Mortgage, the holder of the former Lewis Barton property, 2025 Surfside Terrace. “The violator is gone,” he added, explaining that Barton – the one who racked up so much in code enforcement fines – is no longer tied to the property.

Barkett argued that the code enforcement fines assessed against Barton were done so as punishment and to get him to bring his property into compliance.

“You’re punishing the wrong person,” Barkett said.

Commissioners saw it differently.

Commissioner Bob Solari said that the fines are levied for three reasons – retribution, reform, and deterrence. He added that what they do with code enforcement fines sends a message to the community.

“We need to uphold our fines,” Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan agreed.

Commissioners, county staff and representatives of City First could not settle on a resolution during the discussion last week. The matter is expected to go before the Board of County Commissioners again at a later date.

County Attorney Will Collins has recommended the county settle the lien with City First for a fraction of the amount owed because time is running out on collecting.

Code enforcement fines have a 20-year lifespan. The Barton property’s lien is approximately 15 years old.

“There are some inherent risks,” he said in not accepting the $90,000 offer from City First.

County Administrator Joe Baird, however, said that the $90,000 might not be enough to cover the county’s costs associated with litigating the case. He explained that Barton had sued some of the county’s employees.

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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