Flower bed fight nearly costs woman $200 in city fees

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A fight over a flower bed ended with a bill from the city for more than $200.

Sylvia Huffman contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers, saying not only did city of Indianapolis officials tell her she was violating an ordinance, then they charged her for administrative costs.

Huffman said she's maintained a flower bed at the front of her property for 20  years.

It turns out, though, the area is in the right-of-way near the road and Huffman said an anonymous tip led to the city's contact. She was told that the area was in violation of city ordinance.

Huffman received a letter giving her just one day to remove the decorative blocks sitting around the flower bed, but called the inspector and said she was given 60 days to remove them.

"I just took them out completely," Huffman said.

Huffman said she completed the task within one week and she was told her case had been cleared. Two weeks later, though, she received a bill for a $215 administrative fee.

"All I (saw) was the $215 and that got me upset," Huffman said. "They told me to move it and I moved it."

CBS4 Problem Solvers reached out to the city's Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, where the fee originated.

A spokesperson said that administrative fees are "longstanding" and "cover the cost of sending an inspector out to the property."

That spokesperson suggested Huffman file an appeal, which she already had done a week prior.

Within days, CBS4 Problem Solvers learned the city would void the fee in Huffman's case. A spokesperson sent this full statement:

"Administrative fees cover the cost of sending an inspector out to the property and are assessed in accordance with city-county ordinances. Typically, these fees are assessed when a notice of violation (NOV) is issued. There are some cases, where we don’t assess the fee right away.

Example: Someone paints on the pavement. The NOV would go to the property owner where the pavement is in front of, but they may not have been the ones to paint on the pavement. If we can find who painted the pavement, that is who would be billed for the administrative fee.

The majority of the time, the fee is assessed when the violation is issued. Anyone who is assessed the fee has the opportunity to complete our Administrative Fee Appeal form. We handle these appeals on a case-by-case basis.

Anyone who receives a violation notice or administrative fee bill is urged to contact our office as soon as possible with any questions or concerns they may have. The sooner they contact us, the easier it will be for us to help them resolve the issue."

While she won't have to pay, Huffman said the flower bed meant more to her than first meets the eye: it's special because her son helped her install it, and she lost him to cancer four years ago.

"He was only 46 and he had given me part of the flowers down there," Huffman said. "It was a testimony to me of how much my son loved me."

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