Lawsuit seeks to stop demolishing of homes in Rivard subdivision

Article Courtesy of  The Tampa Bay Times

By Barbara Behrendt

Published November 15, 2013


BROOKSVILLE — Costa Homes, builder of the Trails at Rivard, has filed a lawsuit against Hernando County, seeking to stop the county's plan to demolish unfinished homes in the community and asking that permits to complete the structures be reinstated.

Filed on Friday — the deadline the county had set for Costa Homes president Paul Bakkalapulo to pick up new permits or face demolition — the complaint accuses Hernando County government of failing to provide due process before canceling permits to complete six partially built homes in Rivard.

The complaint also asks that a judge prevent the county from again requiring Bakkalapulo to provide $10,000 in escrow or a bond for each of the houses and from setting up another tight completion schedule "so short that it constitutes a prescription for failure,'' the complaint states.

On Tuesday, the County Commission is scheduled to consider approving demolition contractors to tear down the vacant structures. The lawsuit's effect on that plan is unclear.

The county attorney's office had not yet seen the filing Wednesday and routinely declines to comment on pending litigation.

Residents in Rivard, off U.S. 41 south of Brooksville, have fought for years to get the vacant sites demolished or have the county force the builder to finish the homes. One two-story construction site was demolished by the county in the summer. Another home was finished and sold. A third is under construction.

In August, the county's building official declared the six remaining homes as unsafe and gave Bakkalapulo a list of things he had to do as well as deadlines. Late last week, his attorney, Joe Mason, sought a compromise with the county to allow the builder to finish the outsides of the remaining homes and set a new schedule for completion.

On Tuesday, the county's building official, William David Connelly, responded to Mason's proposal.

"It is determined that the Building Department will go forward with the demolition process in accordance with the Unsafe Building Abatement Code,'' Connelly said, noting that the time for an appeal had passed.

News that the lawsuit had been filed frustrated Rivard resident Al Mayles, who has been leading the charge to get homes taken care of.

"That's unfortunate for everyone,'' Mayles said. "I hope the county stands their ground.''