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Palm Coast Friday, May 18, 2018 1 year ago

City plans to foreclose on house for repeated code violations and thousands of dollars in unpaid fines

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‘All of us at the city are in total agreement with you that the condition of the subject property is unacceptable,” City Manager Jim Landon wrote in response to a resident’s complaint.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

After Hurricane Irma struck Flagler County, some residents of Palm Coast’s Powder Horn Drive were alarmed to see smoke coming from a house down the street.

So a group of them went running down the road to make sure there wasn’t a house fire. But as they did so, two pit bull dogs came running out of a house at 3 Powder Horn Drive. And then their owner, Christopher Hetzel, drunk, came out of the house and fired a handgun, according to a Sheriff's Office report.

That Sept. 10, 2017, incident wasn’t the only issue at the house or the only police incident concerning Hetzel, who lives at the home as a tenant with his wife, Jane Gustin. (The house is owned by Camiquel Josephine Villaverde, a New York City resident, according to property records.)

The behavior of the residents has so frustrated neighbors that one of them wrote an email to city staff, City Council members and local reporters detailing a string of issues: parking commercial vehicles at the house, parking on the lawn, repeated noise from partying, accumulations of detritus in the yard, and more.

“For the past year or more we have had to put up with numerous code violations at #3 Powder Horn,” the resident wrote. “It is becoming ridiculous that nothing can be done. ... Also worth mentioning is that school is about to be out for the summer. Myself and several other residents have major concerns with these people being let to do whatever they want with our children in the area.”

Palm Coast is preparing to foreclose on the house for a lien of $3,200, recorded May 1 and increasing at $25 per day, for a lack of rental registration, according to a city spokeswoman. A separate lien of $4,450 was also placed on the house April 20; it increases at $50 per day, and will be recorded May 18 for “nuisance accumulations.”

Not including a few code enforcement notices that were found to have no actual violation, the home was cited 20 times since the start of 2017, according to city Code Enforcement records.

The city plans to start foreclosure proceedings at an Aug. 1 Code Board meeting.

“All of us at the city are in total agreement with you that the condition of the subject property is unacceptable,” City Manager Jim Landon wrote in a reply-all email addressed to the resident. “We have taken numerous steps to bring the property into compliance with City Code and have received no cooperation from the property owner or tenants. We have initiated the unusual, and last resort, property foreclosure proceedings for unpaid fines the city has levied on the property with the goal of bringing the property into compliance with a new property owner. This is a lengthy process that requires us to follow numerous legal steps to accomplish our goal. We will stay focused on our efforts until the property is brought into compliance.”

The Sheriff’s Office, he added, is aware of the situation and “has placed a priority on addressing any possible illegal activity.”

The resident wrote that Hetzel seemed to be “making a mockery of the Sheriff’s Office,” because noise complaints would draw out deputies, but, “as soon as they leave, the party seems to start right up!”

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Cmdr. Mark Strobridge said cases involving neighbors can be difficult because the deputies can’t usually bring charges for something like a noise violation unless someone is willing to fill out a complaint and put their name on it, and neighbors often won’t do that because they’re afraid of facing retaliation.

But without a victim who’s willing to come forward, Strobridge said, “there’s not much we can do, because we can’t be the victim of the crime; the neighbors have to be the victim of the crime.”

Including the Sept. 10 shooting, Hetzel had been charged with crimes on seven separate incidents in Flagler County on charges including driving on a suspended license, battery domestic violence and violating an injunction concerning dating or sexual violence.

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