Residents contest Cape watering restriction enforcement

Orange-shaded areas, which include Cape Coral and most of Southwest Florida, indicate severe drought conditions. Red shows areas in an extreme drought. (Graphic via National Drought Mitigation Center)

CAPE CORAL, Fla. Residents accused of violating the city’s lawn-watering restrictions expressed concern about the way the city is enforcing its rules.

A lack of photo evidence led one case to be continued Thursday in hearings before special magistrate Harold Eskin.

The city imposed a temporary rule last month that limits watering by sprinkler to one day a week amid a severe drought. It began stepping up enforcement in March as a moderate drought became severe. That drought persists, and though the levels of water in the canals that provide the city’s irrigation water are up from a month ago, they haven’t risen in the past week.

David Smith went before the magistrate to contest his third alleged violation.

“They said that they observed the sprinkler on the left hand front side of the house,” Smith said. “Well, there is no sprinkler on the left hand front side of the house.”

Smith’s case was continued until photos of the house could be taken.

Not every code enforcer is equipped with a camera, a city official said. According to city spokeswoman Connie Barron, while photo evidence is preferred for code cases, it is not a requirement.  Most of the watering citations issued do not have any photos associated with the violation. Almost $38,000 in fines have been collected on violations, many of which had no “photo evidence,” said Barron.

Photo evidence wasn’t a factor in cases involving two others who went before Eskin on Thursday. James Jones and Pauline Edwards both had their $100 fines upheld.

Edwards said she didn’t know her sprinkler was set to turn on at the incorrect time. The city on Thursday offered to send someone to her house and make sure her timer is correct moving forward.

Three dozen other watering cases were on Eskin’s agenda, but only four residents showed up to contest the violations.

CORRECTION: A separate case was not thrown out Thursday due to a lack of photo evidence, as was previously stated in this article. While there was no photo evidence, Jeri Kuekelaar’s case was dismissed because she had an affidavit and receipts for the materials purchased to support her claim that she was conducting maintenance on her sprinkler system.

 

Reporter:Adam Wright
AdamWINKNews
Writer:Chuck Myron
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