(WSVN) - A South Florida man whose small home has gotten big attention is facing a new battle. Karen Hensel explains in tonight’s 7 Investigates.

Orlando Capote, homeowner: “It was our American dream.”

Orlando Capote’s dream turned into a nightmare.

As 7 Investigates first reported in 2019, the largest development in Coral Gables history was being built around his longtime family home.

Orlando Capote: “The city of Coral Gables. Of the people, by the people, for the developers.”

Orlando has long maintained the city allowed The Plaza Coral Gables to build too high and too close to his home. But his latest headache isn’t the tall buildings. It’s this decades-old metal structure in his driveway. He fears it could ultimately lead to him losing his home.

Orlando Capote: “I am in a bad marriage with the city of Coral Gables.”

The latest drama started with a violation warning Orlando received in November, citing a “chain-link fence and awning in disrepair.”

Karen Hensel: “They had a complaint about what’s way back here?”

Orlando Capote: “Yes, the chain-link fence that was broken. Cut the section of fence out, and that was it.”

Karen Hensel: “That’s what they wanted to start fining you over?”

Orlando Capote: “One of the things, yes.”

The other is what the city refers to as the “awning,” this metal structure where he parks his car.

Orlando Capote: “So when they look at the canopy cover, they say, ‘Well, that is not an acceptable cover. Oh, by the way, there is no permit on record for the canopy. You have to remove the structure.””

Orlando says it was already here in 1989 when his parents bought the home.

Orlando Capote: “As I told them, this has survived hurricanes and all the storms in the last 34 years.”

June 21st Code Enforcement Board hearing: “And how do you plead, sir?”

Attorney: “He pleads not guilty.”

In June, Orlando and his attorney argued their case in front of the Code Enforcement Board. That’s where Orlando pointed out the canopy is not even visible from the public street.

One board member questioned whether the officer saw the violations himself, or if someone had complained.

Code enforcement officer: “It did come from a complaint. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was from someone in the Agave project.”

Agave Ponce is the developer. Emails obtained by 7 Investigates reveal that in October, an Agave employee complained to the city about things on Orlando’s property, like “overgrown grass,” “cats roaming” and “structures/rusting with no awnings.”

Agave’s managing director also emailed, “…we have grave concerns on the poor condition of the property…”

Orlando Capote: “Now that I see that every attempt that I have made to comply, to correct the situation, to avoid the fines, is now looking more and more like what the developer is doing is using the city to take my property from me.”

To Orlando, who was born in Cuba, this place has always been more than walls and a roof. It was his father’s dream home and where Orlando lived with his elderly mother until she passed away.

Orlando Capote: “We came to America looking for the way of life, and this is not what has been done to me.”

The city says Orlando “failed to comply,” even after the board gave him “30 days to rectify.”

Karen Hensel: “They’re going after a 34-year-old structure.”

Orlando Capote: “Correct, and after that, they might come after something else and something else.”

As of last weekend, he’s being fined $150 a day, racking up more than $1,000 a week. Karen Hensel, 7News.

7 Investigates reached out to the developer for comment, but we have not heard back.


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