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Trouble in paradise
September 6, 2017

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To the editor:

Few residents are aware that fellow Sanibel resident Derek Fell saved others thousands of dollars when he fought the city over a code violation and won at a hearing on Feb.16, 2017. At the time, Fell was unaware he was the first resident to challenge a violation of this particular code and that his was a test case for the city.

If the city had prevailed, any Sanibel resident who applied mulch, bedding mix, or potting soil to their flower beds or home landscape could have been required to pay for a permit or risk a code violation. This could even include having bags of mulch or potting soil stacked in the driveway.

Fell won his case against the city when he proved that a biodegradable bedding mix was not in violation of the city's soil elevation code because it could not be considered "fill" and, therefore, did not require a permit.

Derek Fell - a widely published garden expert and writer - defended his code violation case without an attorney and has requested reimbursement from the city for the 102 hours he spent preparing for the hearing, as well as legitimate out-of-pocket expenses. In spite of the city requesting repayment of their employees' time, which was already paid for by Sanibel taxpayers, plus expenses defending their position, the city has thus far declined to reimburse Mr. Fell in any way. His victory against the city in this test case favorably affects all Sanibel residents and, therefore, he feels justified in requesting reimbursement.

Readers can view a four-page color feature of Derek Fell's acre property, titled "A Sanibel Paradise," in the September/October issue of Florida Gardening magazine. We all live in a tropical island paradise, and value our freedom to use mulch, bedding mix, and potting soil in a responsible manner without fear of pernicious code violation notices.

Alison Ward

Sanibel

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