PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Since Hurricane Michael, Panama City has seen an increase in code violations.
Dilapidated houses and hurricane damage still persisting; Panama City officials say they know many homeowners are actively working to fix their properties, while others have abandoned their homes.
“We have a lot of absentee owners that have done nothing with their property since the storm,” said City Manager of Panama City, Mark McQueen.
The City Commission is saying it’s time for a change.
“To become the premiere city of the Panhandle of Florida, we need to have standards that we all embrace,” said McQueen. “We need to raise those standards.”
However, there’s a problem.
Code enforcement violations are on the rise, but there’s only one hearing every two months to work on them. At the last hearing, the city’s special magistrate, who handles all of these cases, heard 16 of them, each one potentially requiring months of deliberation and due process.
“It could take months, upwards to a year to correct a deficiency that should be done much quicker,” said McQueen.
At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, officials voted to start looking for an additional magistrate to help that process move more quickly.
“We want to start having more code enforcement hearings timely,” said McQueen. “Every two to three weeks we would go through that process to give corrective action to deficient properties.”
“If not, it might be a long period of time before that recovery takes place,” said Commissioner Mike Nichols, who voted to move forward with the plan.
The city is now seeking responses from attorneys that are looking to serve as the additional magistrate, as code enforcement becomes more strict after October 10th.