Polk County man fined $500 a day for messy yard

The deadline has passed. Now the fines are piling up. But so, still, is the junk.

A Polk County family at the center of a long property use battle with the city of Bartow continues to confound and defy code enforcement officials.

On Thursday, Bartow began fining Linda Sue Gibson and her son, David Boyette, $500 per day for each day their property on South Oak Avenue goes uncleaned. The one-third acre lot is covered with furniture, electronics, appliances, interior decor, household goods, dishes, lamps, fans -- just about anything that belongs inside a house. Even two Christmas trees.

The clutter occupies the front and back yards of what was once Gibson's home. The city demolished her house in August after a long battle over its condition. A kitchen fire last year rendered the house uninhabitable, according to code officials. Yet Gibson and Boyette continued living there, right up until the demolition.

Neighbors believe they are still living on the property at times.

Following the demolition, the family began building the menagerie in the yard. Neighbors have called the city numerous times, complaining about the eyesore that is now spilling onto the sidewalk.

At a code enforcement hearing last week, city officials gave the family one week to clean up the property. They did not. The deadline was Wednesday. When FOX13 photojournalist Lucas Bogg visited the property Thursday, he found Boyette there and discovered Boyette has actually added more material to his collection since last week's hearing.

"I thought you said you were going to have all this cleared off?" asked Bogg.

"It is cleared off," replied Boyette, as he moved some of his possessions around. 

He said the city told him to remove only a few specific items. Bartow's code enforcement director, Gregg Lamb, said that's not the case. He said the city will place a dumpster on the property on Friday and give Boyette until Monday to clean it up himself.

"If he hasn't cleaned it up by Monday, we'll come out and remove everything on the property, mow the grass on the lot, and place a lien on the property," said Lamb.

The city also cleaned up the property after demolishing the home, placing a $750 lien on the property to cover the cost of the cleanup. That's in addition to a $15,000 lien for the actual demolition. Lamb says if the liens aren't paid, the city can get a judge to seize the property and foreclose it, which would effectively bar the family from staying there and putting more items in the yard. 

Boyette said the city cannot take the property.

'You have a better chance of getting pregnant, sir," he told Bogg. "No one can take something from you that you truly own."