City Council members vote to take CVS to court

Okeechobee City Council members voted in favor of City Attorney John Cook commencing legal action against the CVS Pharmacy located at 106 N. Parrott Ave.

CVS has racked up over $20,000 in fines over the course of a year for code violations related to failure to maintain the company’s property.

A year ago, in a Feb. 13 hearing, the city code board found Spirit CV Okeechobee FL LLC (the CVS property) in violation of city codes related to landscaping and public nuisance. The city code defines public nuisance as “the existence of excessive accumulation of litter or untended vegetation, garbage, weeds, or other dead or living plant life; or places holding stagnant water, and all other objectionable, unsightly or unsanitary matter upon any lot, tract of land within the city, whether uncovered or under shelter.”

City code also requires: “All owners of improved property shall cut and keep cut all weeds, grasses or undergrowth on the entire property, to a height not to exceed 8 inches. Also, all landscaping shall be trimmed and kept in a neat appearance so as not to adversely affect the aesthetic appearance of the property and adjacent properties.”

Around the same time last year, Walgreens, located directly across from CVS at 100 N.W. Park St., was also found in violation of city codes relating to landscaping and public nuisance. Following that hearing, Walgreens installed irrigation and new landscaping to come into compliance with city code.

CVS, however, did not.

“Walgreens stepped up and replaced all their landscaping and put in irrigation so it would be maintained; CVS hasn’t,” said City Attorney John Cook at the May 7 City Council meeting. “We’ve been in touch with them over and over and over. I believe if we commence legal action, it will at least get their attention and get some response.”

According to Okeechobee Code Enforcement Officer Fred Sterling, the local management at CVS report that their district managers are aware of the fine but have chosen not to respond.

The aesthetics of the City of Okeechobee often come up in debates about attracting new businesses and residents to the area. During a political forum in 2018, Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs addressed the issue directly.

“We’ve had a lot of conversation relative to code enforcement,” said Commissioner Burroughs. “If the environment doesn’t look nice, people will not come and open up a business.”

With its central location at the main intersection of Okeechobee, the CVS property plays a crucial role in how both residents and visitors view the city.

“I did mention to the local manager while I was in the store that this issue was going to be on our agenda,” said Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford shortly before city council members voted. “I thought it was fair to let him know. He responded that CVS does not let him take care of those things. He told me that the regional manager would be there the next day and he would let him know. Obviously, they weren’t that concerned about it.”

The city council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

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