Foreclosed and forgotten homes

What one community is doing about them

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Carol Caso knows what she did last month was against the law. After riding by a foreclosed home in her Golden Gate neighborhood for years, she and a few neighbors took it upon themselves to clear away the vegetation that was completely hiding the home.
"Because we've had it and we did it to prove a point to county and neighbors as well that this can be changed," she said.

While the home may have been an extreme example, more than 200 homes in the community near Stuart were recently found to be in some type of code violation.

Caso and other residents are now working with Martin County's Community Development Director Kev Freeman.
"Establishing where their needs are, getting to know them establishing trust between community and government which is a difficult time," Freeman said.

Golden Gate residents have long complained that code enforcement isn't doing enough to help. One idea being discussed would be to give Golden Gate's Community Redevelopment Agency more power over code enforcement issues. Freeman says it's a complex maneuver. "we also have existing county codes in place that we have to reflect and also we need political backing for this."

"The county just spent some money on the Golden Gate neighborhood, using more than 600-thousand dollars in grant funds to improve the streets that serve as entryways into the neighborhood.

Blocks have been repaved, and there are new lights and sewer improvements. Those measures enhance property values. As would a reduction in the number of neighborhood eyesores... which Carol Caso believes is finally coming. "We're not going to give up, we're going to stay fighting until we make sure this place gets cleaned up."

The code enforcement proposal still needs a number of approvals, from the neighborhood advisory committee first, then the Community Redevelopment Agency, and finally the Martin County Commission.

Residents are confident the ordinance change will be approved.

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