More than 130 families left homeless by Hurricane Charley, which hit Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast last August, won’t be tossed out by the city of Venice, according to a report by the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
After a week of threatening to levy $500-a-day fines and cut off services to a trailer park where hurricane victims are living, Venice City Manager Marty Black agreed Thursday (Jan. 20) to allow them to remain at the Stay-N-Play RV Park for at least two more months.
“The idea was never to displace folks,” Black said. “It’s a life-safety issue for us.”
After the meeting at City Hall with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Florida Department of Community Affairs and an attorney for the trailer park’s owner, Black said the city’s fire safety concerns had been resolved.
Parties agreed to place a large water tank at the trailer park so the fire department can hook up to it in an emergency.
As part of the deal, the city will get four acres to build a fire station. The land is being donated by J&J Homes of Venice, which owns the park.
“It gives us assurances that future emergency service needs will be met,” Black said.
Meanwhile, a FEMA spokesman said the agency is working to find permanent housing for the families who have been living since fall in travel trailers at Stay-N-Play.
More than 100 families have already been moved out and caseworkers are working with the remaining families to help them find housing.
“It’s going to take some time,” said Chris Tetsuwari, FEMA branch chief. “We’re not in an ideal rental situation right now.”
Black said a confrontation between the city and FEMA escalated earlier this week because neither FEMA nor property owner J&J Homes kept the city informed about plans for the trailer park or sought to extend the required occupancy permit past the end of this month.
Black said he was afraid someone would be hurt or killed because of inadequate fire protection. He also worried that if FEMA stayed without a permit, families would remain permanently in what he considers substandard housing that violates city zoning.
“If you don’t bring attention to these issues they get lost,” Black said. “It’s been a learning situation.”