County Takes Extraordinary Legal Step to Demolish Derelict Motel on Old Dixie as Owners Stop Responding
The Flagler County government has filed a lawsuit to condemn and demolish the long-derelict, yellowed motel that law enforcement, residents and county code enforcement officials have owned for years near Dixie Commons along the South Old Dixie Highway, not far from the interchange on I-95, upset. The owners have stopped responding to the county’s attempts to amicably resolve the issue and have refused to acknowledge a letter that was supposed to be delivered to them in person last month.
The lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court on March 3rd and amended last week. “We have asked for a permanent and injunction to demolish the building,” District Attorney Al Hadeed said on Monday. “We have issued certification that this is an unsafe structure under the Florida Building Code and we will continue to reduce the nuisance.” either voluntarily, immediately with the owners, or to obtain a court order that will allow us to do so on their behalf, thereby securing our costs through a lien on the property. ”
“This is the first time we’ve had to use the state’s public harassment law” to address such a situation in Flagler County, Hadeed said. The move, however, was compelled by the “seriousness” of the matter. The county has a preliminary meeting with potential buyers of the property who claim they are looking into the issues. “That being said, despite that interest, we’re still going ahead to get a court order,” said Hadeed.
It was once known as the Country Hearth Inn, one of those nondescript two-story motels and restaurants that dot America’s streetscape like gas stations and fast food places. The license, built in 1973, last expired in 2009. Since then it has been reserved for swallows, scavengers, vandals and adventurous investors. A couple of them decided to buy them for $ 300,000 in 2017. The real estate appraiser is currently evaluating the property at the same value.
The property at 2251 South Old Dixie Highway on the southern end of Flagler County is owned by Ajmal and Zubair Zulali of San Diego. Its appearance has not improved since it was acquired. The Zulalis have not paid their property taxes for two years. You owe $ 9,900.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office alerted the County Commission to the neglect of the building last year after the property was “the focus of criminal activity, suicide and complaints from nearby residents,” according to Sheriff Rick Staly.
The Zulalis met “multiple times with county officials over the course of several years,” according to county administrator Jerry Cameron in a January 15 letter to the Zulalis, leaving the county with the impression that the Zulalis were repairing the property and bringing it into conformity . They received an extension of their building permit. Aside from installing a fence, they did little to keep their promise. The approval has expired. The property remains in a miserable condition.
In the description of the district, the property is a mass of rubbish, overgrown vegetation and rubble with an unsecured and partially filled swimming pool, the stagnant water of which has become coagulants of above-ground greens. “The property and the abandoned motel are unsafe, unsanitary, pose a fire hazard, are dangerous to people’s lives and pose a threat to the safety and health of the community,” argued the district in its court case. The fire alarm system has been destroyed, the sewage system does not work, there is no electrical supply, the roof has partially collapsed, railing segments on the second floor have fallen, all air cooling or heating systems have been removed or stolen. The building, with its furniture, bedding, and wall art scattered and broken, looks like an earthquake or explosion.
Last year the county documented the decline of the property with a drone video (which, strangely enough, was played to the tune of “Lady Day Lady”, a piece by the French composer called “Bertysolo”):
The state health department filed a final order on Feb. 8, classifying the property as unhealthy and unhealthy, urging the Zulalis to fix the issues or pay fines of $ 1,000 per day. The fines could be up to $ 45,000. An enforcement notice was issued to the owners on February 25, declaring the property unsafe. Cameron warned them that if they did not act, an injunction would be filed against them. You didn’t do it.
Since the Sheriff’s Office brought its case to the county, “the owners have only installed a partial fence that is insufficient to prevent people from entering the property,” Staly wrote to Cameron on Jan. 21. The abandoned pool remains a safety and health risk. As you know, decaying properties like this one often become attractive to criminal activity and other quality of life issues to homes and businesses nearby. Because this property is in a remote corner of Flagler County near the Volusia County line, it can attract criminal activity from both counties with little law enforcement oversight. “
Cameron wrote again to the Zulalis on February 8, repeating the same concerns and warnings. By then, Ajmal Zulali appeared to be actively refusing to acknowledge the county’s steps: when a trial server attempted to deliver Cameron’s letter to Zulali personally on February 13 – the third time the server attempted the service – Zulali refused according to the court, the document recognized papers, although he confirmed his identity.
A date for the hearing before Judge Perkins has not yet been set. The case is one of several cases the county is currently litigating, along with its ongoing defense against an infringement suit brought by the owners of Captain’s BBQ in Bings Landing, a recent lawsuit filed against the inspector of the Sears building the county held at the time bought had to sell after discovering water intrusion and pending legal action to acquire easements to complete a project to rehabilitate the dunes in Flagler Beach.
Flagler County v Ajmal Zulali: