After giving residents five months to start to grapple with the tremendous destruction from Hurricane Michael and insurance companies, Panama City Code Enforcement is formulating a plan to deal with dangerous properties where nothing has happened.
Much like Bay County, Panama City Code Enforcement plans to start putting pressure on homeowners at the six month mark, April 10, to clean their properties up.
“I’ve asked my code enforcement to hold off on the rigorous standard they would normally have until after the 10th of April and I want to give our citizens time and space to deal with their insurance companies,” City Manager Mark McQueen said. “But after the 10th of April, I need to start moving forward because this is our community and we need to start moving on with it.”
This does not mean that city will start issuing citations on April 10, but they will be notifying property owners of potential problems. McQueen said the city’s plan will likely be similar to the plan the county announced last week to start issuing citations at the one year mark.
“It’s nothing personal,” McQueen said. “It’s about trying to enforce a standard that was in place before the storm.”
To help private property owners get there, the city is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to put programs in place to help make it possible.
One is already in effect, the private property debris removal program, which enable residents to have fallen or damaged trees cleared from their property for free as long as insurance doesn’t cover it. So far, 73 residents have signed up for the program.
The city is also pursuing a commercial program with FEMA to clean up damaged businesses and a housing program to clean up housing rendered uninhabitable.
Based on surveys done early on and what he’s seen since, McQueen estimated that there are between 500 and 1,000 homes that will need to demolished and about 500 businesses. The properties, he said, create a health and safety hazards, particularly for transients and curious children.
In the meantime, he’s focusing on an creating education campaign for what it looks like to bring properties up to code to ensure the standards are clear. Some codes, he said, may have to be tweaked.
“When we look back five years from now, I don’t want us to say we missed an opportunity to do it right,” McQueen said.
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