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Thread: Questions about property/zoning violations

  1. #1
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    Questions about property/zoning violations

    There are county laws where I live that say you can't have trash, garbage, refuse, litter, dump heaps, or junk on your property unless it's behind a solid enclosed fence.

    Dumps heaps are defined as: Any lot on which trash, debris, garbage or other waste, junk or scrap material is dumped or deposited, and which has not been approved as either a debris landfill or a sanitary landfill.

    Junk is defined as: Any scrap, dismantled, inoperable, or dilapidated motor vehicles, including parts; machinery; household furniture and appliances; construction equipment and materials; tanks and drums; tires; pipes; wire; wood; paper; metals; rags; glass; and any other kind of salvage or waste material.

    Refuse and trash are defined as: Waste materials including ashes, garbage, rubbish, junk, industrial waste, dead animals, and other solid waste materials, including salvable waste


    If you have these things on your property, the county can come in after a certain period of time to cleanup your property.

    What I am interested in knowing is if any of these things would be considered a violation and could be taken: tools (electric saw, hammer, nuts, bolts, drills, etc.), building material, antiques, tires, a kerosene stove, cleaning fluid, and car batteries.

    I already have an opinion but I'd like to hear other opinions as well. By the way, I'm asking this for someone else. They've asked their court appointed attorney but they won't give a straight answer. So, I said I'd look into it for them.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Is the stuff operable? Or is it a pile of broken junk?

    Is this on a property that is being used for work? Not enough info for the question, and honestly, if you have an issue with your neighbor, you should consult your local authority, not this message board.

  3. #3
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    you should consult your local authority, not this message board.
    I echo Jeff's recommendation. What gets said here means nothing if the local officials have different opinions. Talk to the locals.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    If a person is ordered to clean up their property because of a violation, they fail to heed the order, and the local authority cleans it up or hires someone to clean it up it is unlikely that they will pick and choose what is removed. It is most likely that they will clear the area, in total, and if some part of the stuff is not junk in your opinion, nonetheless it will be gone.

    I also agree with the others. If you disagree with a local interpretation, take it up with the locals. Enforcement, while based on the code, is often carried out in accordance with policy, since all codes, no matter how lengthy, require some amount of interpretation. Our interpretation may not match yours, or that of your local code enforcement folks -- and when it comes down to it what "we think" doesn't matter.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    In the nearly 19 years of doing this, I have always used general guidlines as to what consititues junk. Vehicles are a little easier because you can use the running and plated rule. With the others, is it broken? Is it debris, ie, discarded material? As the others have stated, it's up to the individuals making the decision in your jurisdiction. Trust me, in these types of issues, if they want to get rid of it, it easier to do so than fight it.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  6. #6
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    I am asking this for someone I know who has this junk on their property. The items are on his home property and apparently one of his neighbors turned him in. As I stated in my original post, they asked their court appointed attorneys about whether these items were considered junk and the lawyers didn't know or wouldn't give a straight answer. This person believes that the county employees are liars and they wouldn't give an honest answer. In fact, if you ask the two people in charge of the zoning department, they will both give different answers about what is a violation. That is why I am asking here.

    This person believes that the county is out to get him and that they have illegally taken items from his property. He would like to sue them but he can't afford a lawyer as he is physically and mentally handicapped.

    My opinion is that if he has a lot of stuff laying in the driveway to the point that it's an eyesore, then that stuff should be removed. It's not being stored behind the fence, and that would make it a violation. But the law isn't exactly clear as to whether tools and various other items would be a violation.

    We have spent many months trying to figure this stuff out and can't. We've talked to many people including local lawyers, employees from the zoning department, local residents, and other people in this type of situation. We can't get anywhere with this. And I think it's really sad when lawyers and county employees don't even understand the laws. I just thought maybe someone here might know something or be able to share their own experience.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by blu87 View post
    I am asking this for someone I know who has this junk on their property. The items are on his home property and apparently one of his neighbors turned him in. As I stated in my original post, they asked their court appointed attorneys about whether these items were considered junk and the lawyers didn't know or wouldn't give a straight answer. This person believes that the county employees are liars and they wouldn't give an honest answer. In fact, if you ask the two people in charge of the zoning department, they will both give different answers about what is a violation. That is why I am asking here.

    This person believes that the county is out to get him and that they have illegally taken items from his property. He would like to sue them but he can't afford a lawyer as he is physically and mentally handicapped.

    My opinion is that if he has a lot of stuff laying in the driveway to the point that it's an eyesore, then that stuff should be removed. It's not being stored behind the fence, and that would make it a violation. But the law isn't exactly clear as to whether tools and various other items would be a violation.

    We have spent many months trying to figure this stuff out and can't. We've talked to many people including local lawyers, employees from the zoning department, local residents, and other people in this type of situation. We can't get anywhere with this. And I think it's really sad when lawyers and county employees don't even understand the laws. I just thought maybe someone here might know something or be able to share their own experience.

    First of all, he just needs to clean it up and the problem will probably go away. If he's disabled, why don't his neighbors - or you - help him? That's what being a nieghbor is all about, right. Get rid of the crap that would be considered trash and find somewhere else to put the other stuff, like the tools, if they are operable. If they're not operable, they're trash. Who cares whether the tools would be considered a violation, if it creates clutter on the property that is within view of other properties, it is a problem regardless of whether it would technically be a violation.

    You are asking the wrong questions in your approach to fixing the problem.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Just pay some local kids $20 to clean the place up and be done with this already.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with vaga and jeff ..... be neighborly and help the poor guy clean it up. The kindest thing you can do for your friend is lend a hand and help him pick up the stuff.

  10. #10
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    If it were as simple as cleaning it up, I wouldn't even have posted here to begin with. You guys must not know anything about OCD and hoarders. This man has a mental illness that causes him to hoard stuff on his property. He will go out and collect stuff from dumpsters and junkyards and bring it home. He cannot stop. As long as he is alive and is not a) in prison, b) in a mental institution, or c) so ill that he can no longer walk, he will always hoard. His property has been cleaned multiple times and within a few weeks to a few months he has it junked up again. He goes to doctors (psychiatrists and psychologists) and takes medication and nothing helps. He doesn't want and won't allow people to help him clean it up. If you were to go against his wishes and clean it up anyway, it's very likely he'd physically hurt you.

    Believe me when I say that finding a legal solution to this is far easier than just cleaning it up.

    There was a recent story about how the county he lives in was breaking the law and illegally fining people for various things. So it's possible that some of the items they say are a violation are not. What's wrong in trying to find out?

    The tools and other items are worth several thousand dollars. This man is on disability and cannot afford to buy tools and other things. So he resorts to searching for discarded items that he can use. That is why this is such a big deal. He was in accident which caused him to be physically and mentally unable to work. He got screwed out of the insurance money. Then his mental problems and financial problems caused him to hoard. He shouldn't be allowed to have all that junk on his property but I'm only asking about a small percentage of stuff that is in violation. Geez! Have a cow people. I hope something like this doesn't happen to someone you know.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    [QUOTE=blu87;374043]You guys must not know anything about OCD and hoarders.


    You said nothing about any mental disorders in your original post. I think you posted on the wrong site. You should have went to psychoburbia.

    How many times do you think I've heard this type of excuse. Whether he's mentally ill or not, it still needs to be cleaned up. And if he does it again, it needs to be cleaned up again. I'm also not buying the crap about the county government being corrupt.
    Last edited by vagaplanner; 17 Mar 2007 at 12:22 AM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I suggest you pad the yard in then.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by blu87 View post
    And I think it's really sad when lawyers and county employees don't even understand the laws. I just thought maybe someone here might know something or be able to share their own experience.
    Often the county employees have "inherited" regulations that took affect before they started working there, and it is sometimes hard to pinpoint the true intent of the regulations. Ultimately the case will probably go to hearing code (depending what the procedure is in your county), and the hearing code officer will be the one to make the determination as to whether your friend is breaking any rules. That is why no one at this point feels comfortable giving you a straight answer. It is not their place to do so.

    As for the OCD, I do understand, and I'm sorry some people on here are mocking it. But rules are in place for the health and safety of everyone. He could try to use doctor's testimony when he argues his case, but it probably wouldn't matter.

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