Partial victory in Cape Coral woman's fight to live off the grid

CREATED Feb. 21, 2014

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CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Thursday was judgment day for Robin Speronis, the Cape Coral woman fighting to live off the grid.

FOX 4's Liza Fernandez first brought you her story three months ago in a special report about Speronis' choice to live without electric service, running water or city sewer. The day after our report first aired, the city of Cape Coral tagged the home with a notice to vacate, which FOX 4's Liza Fernandez also reported. 

Speronis spent the holidays and the new year in legal limbo, not knowing if she could legally be inside her own home. It took city attorneys and code compliance officers more than two months to amend the original complaint and call Speronis to a hearing on the matter.

Thursday, both parties went before a special magistrate, which ended in a partial victory for the widow who's shown she's not afraid to challenge authority.

"I'm looking forward to this coming to a conclusion," said Speronis as she and her attorney, Todd Allen, met before her code enforcement hearing at Cape Coral city hall.  

The city alleging a multitude of codes violations that boil down to three main issues: Speronis' use of rainwater as a water supply, her use of solar power for electricity and whether the home is connected to a sewer system.
The nearly two-hour proceeding was full of arguments, evidence, witnesses, clarifications and frustration.

"They're throwing everything up against a wall, running people all around city hall to grab stuff to piece together an argument," said Speronis attorney Todd Allen as the city scrambled to shore up its claims with evidence.

Finally, magistrate Harold Eskin heard enough and prepared to rule.  

He found Speronis guilty of violating codes that require her to hook up to an approved water supply.

"You have to have a water supply system that meets the international plumbing code, that's connected to the water plumbing systems in the house. And I don't find, notwithstanding the use of rainwater, that that's an adequate water supply system," Eskin explained. 

The magistrate then found Speronis not guilty of not having a proper electrical system because, he said, the city did not make its case well enough on that claim. "There may be violations of the code, but I don't think they've been properly alleged here," Eskin added. 

Eskin also found Speronis not guilty of not having a proper sewer connection, convinced by the evidence presented that the home is, in fact, connected to the public sewer system.

Speronis said she's happy with beating two of the city's three claims.  "We were there for close to two hours, so he [the magistrate] really reviewed the evidence. That's all you can really ask for," she said outside the hearing chambers. Her attorney called the proceedings a mental fistfight. "I'm impressed with the way the magistrate delved into the issues. I'm disappointed at the stops the city pulled to get some sort of conviction today," said Allen.

City attorney, Bill Buztrey, denied 4 In Your Corner's request for a comment immediately after the ruling.Speronis may appeal to the circuit court or bring a new suit.  Otherwise she has thirty days to comply with the water supply violation. And the city is free to try and cite Speronis again.