Thursday, June 13

Family struggles to use backyard after School District of Palm Beach County takes over land

The Azor family has less space to grow mango trees and other plants in their backyard after the School District of Palm Beach County took over land the family has used for years.

Palm Beach County Schools said it conducted a new survey during its renovation of Wynnebrook Elementary School that showed the family was operating on the district’s land.

This is the third time WPTV has reported on the district changing people’s property during a renovation.

Most notably, a family near Melaleuca Elementary School lost a fence made out of trees over a dispute of about 2 feet.

Jonas Azor said his family’s dispute is about 7 feet.

“Extremely frustrating because my parents are immigrants,” he said. “They come from Haiti. They work hard for what they have, been here since 1988, and they paid for this. They’ve paid taxes on it. They’ve been doing it on all the land they thought it was theirs, so to take 7 feet the school says is theirs is extremely frustrating.”

Azor said he’s been having to help his parents with the language barrier while he’s living in Atlanta. He said he believes the school district is bullying immigrants because they can’t defend themselves.

“I mean, those people, who are higher-ups who make a little more,” Azor said. “They have the power to fight it with top lawyers and the school would back off. I know it for a fact.”

Azor also said he didn’t believe this would occur in other zip codes where the median income was higher. He also said he believes the district is retaliating against the family for not selling the home when the district made an offer in 2006.

“It’s a bully,” Azor said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, we found it’s ours. We were going to pay for it at first, but nah we’ll take it, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We’ll get our bulldozers. We’ll intimidate. Every morning it’s super loud.’ What are you going to do with 7 more feet?”

Maria Sherven, who is a spokeswoman for the school district, categorically denied those allegations in a written statement. She said the district backed away from the purchase after signing a contract in 2007.

Sherven also said the Azor family is creating safety and liability concerns for the school district and the community by occupying the property. She said property laws give the district the right to take the land.

“Please note that property law is clear in that one cannot legally build on property they do not own,” Sherven wrote in an email. “If one chooses to build on property that does not belong to them, they run the risk that the property will be reclaimed by the owner and that any encroachments will be removed.”

She also said the district is replacing the chain link fence and will place a new fence along the boundary, which it said is for security purposes.

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