City threatens to arrest residents for placing signs on property
From C. Ron Allen, CRA Media Group
BOYNTON BEACH, FL – A local couple, whose apartment building was demolished in January to make way for progress, was threatened with jail time after they launched a public campaign against the City of Boynton Beach.
Leon and Gail Jenkins said the City demolished their one-story building, at 132 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., so they could widen the street and expand the nearby Sara Sims Park.
On Aug. 28, city officials fired off a letter to the Jenkins saying that they posted two signs on their property in the historic Heart of Boynton neighborhood without a permit and that they illegally used the city’s logo on one of the signs. When Gail Jenkins had a worker to alter the sign on Sunday, a Boynton Beach police officer threatened to arrest him, she said.
“The assistant city attorney said we couldn’t use their official seal so he was painting over it when the officer said that he was going to arrest him for putting up a sign with-out a permit,” Gail Jenkins said.
“This is nothing but the latest attempt on the city to intimidate us. They stole our property in January and now they are threatening to arrest us because we are exercising our First Amendment rights.”
The Jenkins maintain that all they were doing was exercising their constitutional right when they had the signs professionally done.
One of the signs had the City of Boynton Beach’s and Community Redevelopment Agency’s logo, and a bull’s eye surrounded by the words Strong Arm Tactics.”
It also had the message: “They want this land but don’t want to pay for it. Why buy what you can steal?
“Where will my children’s in-heritance and legacy come from? Where will my future profits come from?
“This property is very valuable, which is why they want it. Where is it located??? In The Heart of Boynton, but neither you nor I will be a part of it. It could happen to you too! Let your voices be heard. Call (561) 536-3555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org”
After learning of the signs, Assistant City Attorney Shana H. Bridgeman fired off a letter ordering them to cease and desist.
“The City of Boynton Beach has become aware of the yard signs on your property (132 and 134 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., aka 132 and 134 NW 10th Ave.) which contains the official City of Boynton Beach Seal. The City of Boynton Beach has not granted you, your agents or your associates permission to use the Official Seal of the City of Boynton Beach,” Bridgeman wrote.
“This letter shall serve to put you on formal notice that the use of the City’s Seal without the City’s permission, except by municipal officials or employees in the performance of their official duties, is a violation of Section 165.043, Florida Statutes. The violation of this statute is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment,” she continued.
Here is what is at issue.
The City wants the last remaining piece of vestige on the block for its Heart of Boynton Project. The Heart of Boynton is the city’s impoverished down-town along Seacrest Boulevard between Boynton Beach and Martin Luther King Jr. boule-vards. The area is inhabited primarily by African American businesses and homes.
The Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency board unanimously voted in January 2014 to draft development and purchasing con-tracts with Boos Development Group to bring a Family Dollar store on the property. The 8,320 square feet development, which will have up to 20 parking spaces, is being built on the southeast corner of Seacrest and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards. The Jenkins’ property is across the street from that store. The CRA looks at the development as a catalyst for the sur-rounding area.
Two nonprofit organizations, Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and Boynton Beach Faith Based Community Development Corp., are building the 21-home Ocean Breeze West development on property just south of the Jenkins’ home.
The City in 2010 offered the Jenkins $110,000 for the property. However, the mortgage on the property is $160,000, which would put the Jenkins at a $50,000 deficit.
Sequence of Events
The Jenkins have owned the property at 134 N.W. 10 Ave. (same as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) for about 30 years.
While driving by in April of 2013, a city inspector discovered that someone had tampered with a FP&L meter. The inspector called FP&L who determined that electricity was being stolen and disconnected the power from the house, which forced all the tenants to move out, Jenkins said. The Jenkins were not given notice.
Trespassers entered the building and destroyed electric wires, plumbing, and tore out tiles from bathrooms, which had just been remodeled. So the Jenkins replaced the doors and boarded up the windows in an attempt to keep people out.
With no income from the building the Jenkins tried to sell the home but no one was interested.
City officials told the Jenkins that if the city demolished the building, they would then be required to reimburse the City the $10,000 demolition cost.
On April 12, 2014, the Jenkins informed the City that it would take approximately two months to remodel the building. The City rejected their request and granted the Jenkins 14 days to secure a contractor, obtain the required permits and to complete the remodeling.
Several meetings took place including an appeals hearing in November where the City gave the Jenkins two months, (from Nov. 7 to Jan. 12) to complete the remodeling.
A seasoned architect and contractor submitted plans, which were rejected three times before they were approved to begin work on Dec. 19. Even so, the city delayed inspections.
The renovation was on track for a Jan. 12 completion, and an inspection was scheduled. However, the inspector did not show up or call.
Two days after the scheduled completion date, the building officials posted a stop work order. Police escorted the workers off site and the City, the following day, began preparing to demolish the Jenkins’ property.
The Jenkins maintain the City engaged in stalling techniques to delay the process, despite new impact windows, steel doors, completely new electric and plumbing, tile replacement and a complete paint job.
On Jan. 26, 2015, a demolition cred tore down the building.
The Jenkins filed an emergency injunction to try to prevent the demolition. A court hearing about the matter was held even though the building already was razed.
Attorneys for the Jenkins have been communicating with the City to get damages for the demolition.
On Aug. 24, the Jenkins in-stalled two signs on their property informing the public of how the City demolished their home and is trying to steal their property.