Suburban Tampa hoarder, with $11 million in fines, forced out of home

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Ed Potter, age 78, has accumulated $11.1 million in code enforcement fines for junk he has stored around his home at 1700 Balmoral Dr. in Pinellas County. But after 26 years of complaints by his neighbors and countless citations by code enforcement officers, it was the overdue taxes he failed pay that finally spelled Potter’s demise as a hoarding homeowner.

Potter promised to cleanup his property a year ago after pleading guilty to code violations. “My word is my bond,” Potter told 8 on Your Side. But, he just couldn’t do it, even after neighbors organized a volunteer cleanup of his property on his behalf.

Last month, real estate investors Ralph Acevedo and Ed Febres say they purchased several years of tax deeds on the property and gave Potter $2,000 to hit the road and leave all his trash and treasures behind. They say Potter filled a U-Haul rental truck with his most prized possessions and left for parts unknown.

The buyers have already filled a 20-cubic-yard dumpster with most of the debris that littered Potter’s double lot yard. But inside the home, thousands of items ranging from old appliances and TVs, to store mannequins and tons of paper are stacked as much as five feet deep. There is barely enough space to walk from one room to another inside his house. They’re sure there are rodents and snakes hiding somewhere under the debris.

“You just kind of get numb to it,” said neighbor Diane Berquist. “You have to.” Berquist wasn’t aware of the inside view but she has stared at mountains of yard debris and junk cars in Potter’s yard from across the street for years, wondering how she would ever sell her own home with that kind of view.

Acevedo and Febres plan to clean out the home, restore it to a habitable state and sell it for a profit. Their investment so far amounts to less than $9,000.

“We would love for it to be a neighbor who buys it and stays within the community,” said Ralph Acevedo. “And not somebody that comes out and has another issue.”

Friday, Pinellas County Code Enforcement Director Todd Myers paid a visit to the property that has become a thorn in his side after decades of failed attempts to force Potter to clean up his property. Myers said a hearing set for the end of October might have resulted in the county taking over the property and cleaning it up at taxpayers’ expense.

Myers insists he’s pleased to hear the buyers plan to address all of the code violations. Technically, they are responsible for paying the $11.1 million code enforcement lien, but Myers assured them that won’t be a problem as long as they finish the cleanup. “Don’t concern yourself with that number, whatsoever,” Myers said.

Friday afternoon, a woman slowed her car to a stop in front of the house and asked if the new owners were there. She wants to buy the house and move in—after the cleanup.

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