Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | May 22, 2018

Residents question enforcement of junk abatement ordinance

May 16, 2018

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

While Planning and Zoning is prepared to start taking action against “junk” properties in Henry County, residents are demanding a black and white definition of what the county considers junk.

Although a junk abatement ordinance has been in effect for a number of years, county officials began taking a closer look at the process of abatement of junk zoning violations after citizen complaints during a meeting in April. Under the ordinance, Zoning Administrator Joe Buffington is tasked to investigate complaints, determine whether or not a property meets the definition of a junk property and send property-owners a notice explaining the violations.

“Comments I’ve gotten so far have been positive about getting out there, enforcing the ordinance and getting it cleaned up,” Buffington said during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, May 15. “I’ve got several complaints. I’ll start sending out letters based on the complaints I’ve received.”

Once property-owners receive a notice, they can choose to clean up their property within the time allotted or appeal to the Board of Adjustment. Property owners in violation of the ordinance are encouraged to contact Buffington with any questions or if they feel additional time is needed to correct the violation.

If the violation is not cleaned up within the allotted time, a letter will be sent from the Planning and Zoning office explaining the consequences of non-compliance, which includes a civil fine of $500 per offense and potentially 30 days in jail per offense.

“There are some pretty strong repercussions for not doing what we’re asking them to do,” said Terri Quartucci, assistant Henry County attorney.

“There’s significant due process involved,” Buffington added.

The seven members of the public who voiced their concern during the meeting did not feel positively about the ordinance, however. Residents shared their concern that there will be favoritism, asking for a clarification and a black and white definition of what a junk property looks like.

Meeting attendees were also concerned that Buffington had too much authority, arguing that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

“I have talked with a lot of individuals and there’s a lot of people awfully upset over this,” David Calhoun said. “We have one individual that’s going to start this ball rolling (on whether a property is in violation or not). I don’t believe that’s really fair. It should take more than your opinion,” he said, addressing Buffington.

Supervisor Marc Lindeen said that junk abatement is citizen-complaint driven. Buffington will not be driving around the county looking for properties in violation. “Someone has to bring it to (Buffington) first,” Lindeen said. “He is just the mediator of doing what’s on the books.”

Phil Grandenetti showed Supervisor Greg Moeller a notice he received from Buffington Oct. 4, 2017, asking him to clean up the trailers on his property by June 7, 2018.

Grandenetti said that as his business — Grandenetti’s Metal Recycling — expanded over the last few years, the scrap yard was quickly overgrown. “Those trailers never meant to be down there permanently,” he said.

Grandenetti voiced concern that he wouldn’t be able to get it cleaned up by the deadline set by Buffington and he didn’t want to pay a fine because of it; however, he later added, “I don’t like the trailers sitting there either … It will be taken care of (and) will be the best-looking place on the road again.”

Supervisor Greg Moeller advised him to speak to Buffington directly.

Since junk abatement is already a county ordinance, Supervisors took no action regarding the enforcement of the junk abatement issue. The discussion was to inform Supervisors of the process the county would take to enforce the ordinance.

Buffington said if the county wants to start defining what a junk property is more strictly, that’s something he can do, but he doesn’t think anyone wants that.

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