JUPITER — An overgrown lawn could cost a homeowner $1,000 a day.
A plan to quadruple the penalty from the current maximum of $250 per day for a first violation was scheduled for consideration at one of this month's town council meeting.
A repeat violation by the same person would be boosted to $5,000 a day maximum from $500 per day.
If the code enforcement board finds that the violation is irreversible — the unapproved removal of an historic tree, for example — the violator would face a maximum fine of $15,000. The current maximum penalty is $5,000.
"That's outrageous," said Stefan Harzen, a member of the property owners association for the Woodland Estates neighborhood. Increasing the fines will not result in prettier neighborhoods, he said. "This is an easy way for the town to get more money," Harzen said.
Higher penalties are needed to deter flagrant violators, said Councilman Robert Friedman. A landlord who allows too many people to live in a house simply sees the current fine as a cost of doing business, he said.
"Code enforcement needs a larger hammer," Friedman said.
Last year Jupiter's seven-person Code Enforcement Division collected about $39,000 in fines, according to town records.
The increase is being considered because once a town exceeds 50,000 people, state law says it can adopt higher penalties, according to a Nov. 9 memo from Building Department Director Robert Lecky to Town Manager Andy Lukasik. The town's population as of April 1 was 50,275, according to the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
The town code regulates items such as when garbage cans can be placed outside, noise volume, parking of boats, heights of fences, the number of tenants and landscaping. Lawns cannot be higher than eight inches in developed residential areas.
"The higher maximum gives us more discretion in levying the penalty," said Code Enforcement Director Frank Melillo.