TAMPA — In a strong example of collaborative local government, Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, a Democrat, and County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, a Republican, have joined forces to help pass a new ordinance aimed at protecting homeowners and home buyers.
By a vote of 7-0, the Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance Wednesday that will track the inspection and repair of sinkholes within the county. Prior to this ordinance, no public record was kept in Hillsborough County when homeowners hired a company to investigate their property for subsidence activity. If the company was not qualified to perform such work, or the homeowner did not reveal it had a history of sinkhole problems, a future owner of the property could be at serious risk.
The new ordinance now requires the sinkhole investigator to obtain a permit. If the investigator discovers a sinkhole or other subsidence issues and the homeowner hires a company to repair it, a final report must be filed with the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office. This process will help ensure that a licensed geologist or qualified engineer is overseeing the repairs because they must sign off on the project. Typically, the investigation and repairs of sinkholes are made by the same company.
“A huge ‘thank you’ goes out to Commissioner Higginbotham, who had heard me speak to the need of this ordinance and approached me after the election to address it,’’ Henriquez said. “He agreed to make the proposal to his fellow commissioners while we work with HCPA staff and county attorneys on the details. Commissioner Higginbotham’s graciousness is noteworthy in the political climate we live in today.”
Anyone purchasing a home or business in Hillsborough County will soon be able to search the property appraiser’s Web site to learn if the property has a history of subsidence activity and, if so, if the problem has been remediated. The information will also be available to lenders. The HCPA expects this data base to be available on its Web site by the spring of 2014.
Since the HCPA started tracking sinkholes 13 years ago, 1,594 cases have been reported. Of these, 668 have been remediated. If properly repaired by a licensed contractor, the property is considered safe to inhabit.
After hearing Henriquez speak about the sinkhole issue at candidate forums earlier this year, Higginbotham agreed to help Henriquez place the item on the County Commissioners’ agenda. Henriquez spoke to the county commissioners Wednesday and, with the assistance of county attorneys who crafted an ordinance similar to those already being used by Pasco and Hernando counties, the ordinance passed by a unanimous vote.
# # #