Retired Fire Inspector Rallies 55+ Community After Orders To Toss Grills Are Handed Down


For a group of Clearwater, Florida, senior citizens battling their property management company for banning their barbecue grills, it’s not just about disrupting dinner, but their entire way of life.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that some residents at Clearwater’s On Top of the World 55-plus community are fired up after management put undated, unsigned notices on their doors from the city’s fire marshal, asserting the grills don’t comply with the National Fire Protection Code.

According to resident Salvatore Betti, 72 — a retired fire inspector — officials from Parkway Maintenance and Management Pinellas, LLC., ordered grills removed for code violation, indicating “the cooking device (charcoal, LP gas, electric or otherwise) therefore must be removed permanently,” the Times reported.

Betti told the newspaper earlier this month that while code dictates grills should not be placed “within 10 feet of any structures,” the complex’s residents “typically move their grills 10 feet away from their buildings when cooking.”

Residents such as Betti are steamed over this development.

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“They call this On Top of the World,” he told the Times. “I call this ‘the end of the world.'”

“We’re really not asking for a lot,” he continued. “We’re just asking to keep what we have.”

Those who heard about the residents’ plight sympathized on Twitter.

Relocating from Ohio to Clearwater with his spouse in 2015, Betti told the Times that the couple — who grill meals about four times a week — spent over $10,000 more for their ground-level condominium so they could get a patio area to put out a four-burner grill.

“We had a grill all our married life, and that’s been 47 years,” Betti’s wife, Pasqualina, 71, told the Times.

Residents united to roast the company during an early November  neighborhood-wide protest after representatives did not respond to their inquiries. Although he advertised the event on the Nextdoor social networking site, neighbors who meet daily for happy hour joined Betti in force.

This group of neighbors, he said, have congregated twice annually for cookouts, grilled food together after Hurricane Irma knocked out power for days in 2017, and have gathered for community meals to quell loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Should these residents be allowed to keep their grills?
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“A lot of us are immobile and pretty much restricted to our own condos,” Betti told the Times. “Those of us who have grills do so to avoid the restaurants.”

One of those neighbors, Max Freitas, 77, said grilling has been a part of spending time with neighbors.

“Why take away what’s remaining of our lives?” he asked.

Eighty-year-old Jutta Lane likened the grill censoring to living in Russia.

Supporters also rallied on Twitter.

“Save our grills and let us die in peace,” one of the rally signs read.

“On Top of the World is grilling out seniors,” another read about the community.

Clearwater Fire Marshal James Warman confirmed to the Times that the fire code forbids grills near or under balconies “or within 10 feet of any structure.”

Warman clarified that grills are permitted “as long as they’re 10 feet away from any portion of the structure.”

After receiving the notices, Betti said residents have taken steps to lengthen their patio spaces.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to comply,” said Doug Mlodzinski, 73, who noted that he recently spent $400 on a grill he likes.

Another tweet sided with the seniors.

According to Paula Schelling, 75, who works for the resident-geared  monthly newspaper On Top of the World News, management furnished notices to approximately 93 buildings and 1,000 grill owners, threatening fines in addition to grill removal, after a grill fire in the sister complex in Ocala, Florida.

“It’s kind of like one little bad seed and everyone has to suffer because of it,” Schelling said.

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Jennifer Jean Miller is an award-winning news reporter, known for her coverage of New Jersey’s nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. She holds college degrees in Education and Paralegal Studies.
Jennifer Jean Miller is an award-winning news reporter, known for her coverage of New Jersey’s nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. She holds college degrees in Education and Paralegal Studies.
College degrees in Education, Paralegal Studies