Wellington to consider raising maximum fines for code violations


The Village Council will consider raising maximum fines for code violations after approving the discussion at a workshop Monday.

A Florida statute passed about 15 years ago allows counties and municipalities with more than 50,000 residents to raise the ceiling when setting fines for code violations. Currently, Wellington’s maximum fines are $250 per day for a first violation and $500 per day for a repeat violation. If a violation is found to be “irreparable or irreversible in nature,” a maximum fine of $5,000 per violation can be levied.

WELLINGTON READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly newsletter for Wellington news

The statute allows larger cities to have maximum fines of $1,000 a day for a first offense, $5,000 a day for a second offense and $15,000 per violation for those that can’t be reversed or repaired.

According to U.S. Census estimates, Wellington had more than 64,000 residents last year.

Wellington is the only Palm Beach County municipality with a population greater than 50,000 that has not enacted the enhanced penalties, planning and zoning director Bob Basehart told the council at Monday’s workshop. The county also has adopted it, he said.

RELATED: Wellington’s unique way of tackling ravenous iguana hordes

The move would target “serial violators” of Wellington’s code, he said. “They say, ‘I’m not going to get a permit for this because the fine you’re going to charge me is really minimal to what I’m going to make if I have this event,’” Basehart said.

This is the third time the option to raise maximum fines has been presented to the village council. It has not been before the current council, but Mayor Anne Gerwig was on the council when the discussion did not make it past the workshop phase. The one time the option did go to the council, it failed, with only three members supporting the changes.

The issue requires a super-majority vote with at least four council members in favor if it is to pass. Basehart expects the first reading to happen at the council’s July 10 meeting, with the second reading Aug. 14.

Gerwig said her objection now and previously is that the maximum fines could potentially be applied to anyone, not just repeat code offenders. “It’s not specific,” she said. “… We want to be able to hit people who are just flouting, and just in your face, ‘I’m not going to follow your rules.’”

RELATED: Operation Open Doors nets arrests in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach

Councilman Michael Napoleone said the maximums are just that — maximums. People who typically get $25 a day fines now still would see that amount, with the village’s special magistrates given the option to levy fines as they see fit. “If it’s something that’s egregious that needs to be corrected, then they have the ability to put more enforcement power on that person by imposing a higher fine,” he said.

Councilman John McGovern agreed, saying the village would not set any new criteria for when the maximum fine has to be used. “We’ve still left that to be wholly discretionary,” he said.

Vice Mayor Michael Drahos was in favor of moving forward with a public hearing on the changes.

Councilwoman Tanya Siskind was absent.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way
Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way

It all started with a cryptic text from their daughter. “I’m safe,” Hope Lerman had written to her parents, defense attorney Gregg Lerman and his wife, Debra. “I’m with Coach Pagley.” It was Friday night, and the Lermans had expected their daughter home late from one of the most highly anticipated football games...
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth

7:30 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and transported to a hospital by helicopter. All lanes were reported to be open. 7:05 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and...
Shooting at football game in Wellington not a ‘school’ shooting
Shooting at football game in Wellington not a ‘school’ shooting

Detectives are still piecing together what really happened amid the pandemonium after a shooting at the Palm Beach Central-Dwyer high school football game Friday night. But they, school officials, parents and students alike by Saturday had all reached the same conclusion about the incident: it was not a “school” shooting.  One or both...
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown

WELLINGTON – The moment pre-K teacher Britt Downey was ushered into a room by the front offices of Palm Beach Central High School late Friday, hours of code-red lockdown drills kicked in. Downey, who teaches students with autism at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School, wound up under a desk in a room along with six teenage girls after shots were...
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes

An 88-year-old man was arrested Friday for allegedly setting a raccoon on fire for eating mangoes in his yard in Palm Bay, WKMG-TV reports.  Ezra James told authorities he was afraid the raccoon would bite him and give him rabies, said WKMG.  A neighbor called 911 as the raccoon burned alive. "I throw some gasoline on him and I...
More Stories