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Neighborhood feels harassed by Fort Lauderdale code enforcement officers

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Residents of the Poinsettia Heights neighborhood have been getting notices of code violations for their landscapes. The neighborhood is north of Sunrise Boulevard just west of Federal Highway. Built back in the early 1950's as winter retirement homes for snowbirds, the area has become highly desirable due to its proximity to downtown and the beach. New buyers are tearing down old homes with two bedrooms and one bath, replacing them with four bedroom four bath homes. Other new residents are refurbishing existing homes with elaborate renovations and luxurious landscaping.

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City officials encourage homeowners to create wildlife refuges for native animals and birds. They have tree giveaways to plant trees in the swales. City employees give seminars on how to save water with native plants and how to use less poisons on the lawn and garden.

Meanwhile archaic codes require twenty foot setbacks for intersections and grass and ground covers to be lower than six inches. Nothing is allowed to be planted in the swales for six feet. The codes contradict new policies of city tree plantings, for instance.

Mary, a long time homeowner said, I have had these bushes planted for thirty years. "They have never been this low, and yet I was told to cut them down to 32," they made me kill my shrubs after requiring I plant them due to my fence." All that remains are thick stubs of the shrub, with no leaves remaining. Another homeowner was told to cut back his corner native shrubs twenty five feet from the street. He exclaimed, " That would reach inside my living room." Ed was mowing his lawn one morning when an inspector came by giving a citation that his lawn was higher than 6 inches. He asked incredulously, "Where?" The inspector pointed to a weed. Ed proceeded to pull out the weed and handed it to the inspector. A woman told of an inspector who demanded she remove all her wildflowers in the garden since groundcovers must be no higher than six inches.

The mayor Jack Seiler, the commissioner Dean Trantalis have not responded to emails regarding the dilemma homeowners are dealing with. Meanwhile other inspectors noted the codes could be modified to meet current landscape trends, but that takes time. As long as the archaic standards remain on the books, it is up to officials to enforce the rules and homeowners to obey the codes.

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