Mon, Jul 15, 2024

The couple said they assumed the company hired had the proper permits, but code enforcement stated they didn’t exist.

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — A couple from Safety Harbor is asking for forgiveness from city officials after being fined thousands of dollars.

Mark and Holly Hasselbeck said they owe exactly $15,410 after the improper removal of three oak trees, which they said were a hazard to their home. However, code enforcement officials said they didn’t follow the legal process.

“This is not anything we did on purpose. It was an oversight. It was a first offense,” Mark Hasselbeck said. “We’re not against paying something, but $15,000 is unbelievable. We thought we were fixing an issue on our own property.”

The trees were causing damage to the sidewalk and became a tripping hazard, they said. The Hasselbecks said they had already received a complaint from a mailman and had friends trip and fall.

The two stated they hired a company to remove the trees, thinking it had pulled a permit, but city officials stated it didn’t exist. 

“Looking hindsight, we would have made sure, double-checked the permit,” Holly Hasselbeck said.

The couple said they’ve always allowed contractors to follow through with the proper permits for other jobs and assumed that would be the case here.

During public comments, Mark Hasselbeck spoke to Safety Harbor commissioners on Monday, asking if the fines could be reconsidered or the amount lowered. The couple was told there may be mitigation provisions, and they were recommended to discuss them with the city manager and staff. 

The Hasselbecks said they plan to follow up, but at this point, their only options appear to be waiting for a lien on their home or taking this to court.

Both are options the couple said they do not want to take. 

“We just want a fair resolution or some type of appeal process that we can go through,” Holly Hasselbeck said. “We’re just in a tough spot.”

The couple stated they still owe the company, Ken’s Tree Service, for the work done. In a statement to 10 Tampa Bay, the company said that securing work permits typically is the property owner’s responsibility and that its operation manager “reasonably assumed that the homeowner was obtaining the necessary permits. 

“At no point did Ken’s Tree Service represent that we would be responsible for securing the permits, and the written quote provided to the Hasselbecks, which Mr. Hasselbeck electronically signed, did not include any language about permit responsibility.”

The company said it paid a $1,000 fine to the city and received a three-month suspension on submitting tree removal permit applications. 

“While we empathize with the Hasselbecks’ situation, we maintain that obtaining the required permits ultimately rests with the property owner,” the statement read.

The violation notice the city wrote to the Hasselbecks states staff from the company completed the removals under the impression that the homeowner obtained the tree removal permits. It also states the violation is irreparable and irreversible.

The couple stated they now have 90 days to pay the fine. 

“[We’re] not against the code enforcement, but that just seems very extreme and unfair,” Holly Hasselbeck said. 

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