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Dunedin says it tried to work with man it fined $30K over uncut lawn

City officials say the man has been cited for lawn violations since 2007.
Credit: Institute for Justice
Long grass in Jim Ficken's front yard racked up fines with the city of Dunedin, FL to the tune of almost $30,000

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Dunedin city officials say a man who is suing over being fined nearly $30,000 for letting a lawn get too shaggy has been warned about long grass many times before.

The city sent 10News a list of 15 violations dating back to 2007 for the home on Marion Lane. Fourteen of the violations were for overgrowth. One was for a junk vehicle. 

Dunedin's Code Enforcement Board deemed Jim Fickens a "repeat offender" after neighbors complained in 2015, the city said. 

The city added it had been trying to work with him to keep the grass mowed since 2007 through phone calls and violation notices.

An inspector spoke with Fickens in person on July 5, 2018, telling him he would be fined $500 a day if the lawn was not cut. The inspector said Fickens told him his lawn mower was broken. 

He was given five weeks to get the mower repaired and the grass cut, the city said. He was given a repeat violation notice on Aug. 22.

He was fined from July 5 through Aug. 21 -- until the grass was mowed.

The city began foreclosure actions on May 7, saying it could not come to an agreement with Fickens.

According to Ficken’s attorneys, Ficken was out of the state attending to his late mother’s estate when a man he paid to cut his lawn died unexpectedly. When Ficken returned home, he claims he found his lawn hadn’t been mowed but didn’t learn until later that the city had been fining him the whole time. 

“It was a shock, I just couldn’t believe it,” Ficken told reporters on Wednesday, a day after filing his lawsuit with the city. “They were running the fines for seven weeks before they took the time to send a letter out saying, ‘oh, by the way, we’ve been fining you.'” 

City officials said the Marion Lane property is not Ficken's homesteaded property, but they said he had received numerous code violations for his property in Clearwater.

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