PUNTA GORDA, Fla - A Punta Gorda man says his land is sovereign and the county is overstepping its boundaries, trying to clean it up. It's a fight that's gone on for years. Now it's finally coming to an end.
For years, Robert Sumner has battled Charlotte County over complaints his property is littered with junk, gives off a foul stench and is teeming with code violations.
"Everything that's here is a violation," Sumner said. "Everything. In other words, I guess I am in violation even standing on the land."
His argument? It's his land. Sumner claims to be a member of the Pembina Nation Little Shell Band. He says this is Indian land and the county has no jurisdiction here. "They have no right out here, period," Sumner said.
The county doesn't see it that way. Tuesday, Commissioners agreed to move forward with an injunction, forcing Sumner to clean his property once and for all. Among other complaints, there are 8 mobile homes on land where mobile homes are prohibited. "They say I have 8 trailers. All I have is 6," Sumner said.
There's also unsanitary flooding he says is caused by a structure recently built next door. "All that water comes down here when it rains, and my septic tank is right back there," Sumner said. "It goes about that deep over top of it."
And all those unpaid monthly enforcement fees mean a $95,000 property lien the 74 year old says, he just can't afford. "I'm mashed in-between," Sumner said. "The only thing I can do is run."
Sumner says he's giving up the fight and selling the property, meaning he and his family are now looking for a new home.
Because of pending litigation, the county could not comment. The County Attorney tells us there are so many violations, it's beyond the county's resources to clean it up themselves. However, it will be cleaned up. Whoever buys the property will be responsible for bringing it up to compliance.