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Thread: What would you do - potential code enforcement issue and high profile celebrities.

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
    Oct 2005

    What would you do - potential code enforcement issue and high profile celebrities.

    What if time.


    Dale Earnhardt Jr. - "I got about 50 or 60 cars out there and I didn't buy any of them," Earnhardt said. "We get a forklift or a tractor with a forklift or front-end loader and just carry it into the woods and just set it out there somewhere." (Why is it no surprise that Earnhardt's backyard is like some backwoods version of the warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?)"

    What if you were the zoning administrator/inspector for this county? What if this was inconsistent with the property regulations and there weren't any complaints? What if there were complaints (potential multiple infractions, junked vehicles and race tracks)? How would you (if you would) handle the enforcement and the obvious high profile media this would bring - and don't give me the "treat him like any other guy" because you would not be able to from the top down and if you say that you're lying and I preemptively call your BS.

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    interesting question... keep in mind I'm in a hyper-property rights state with no county-level zoning.

    I don't think it would keep me from an investigation and citations, but I would probably proceed with greater caution than normal knowing that my every move would likely be scrutinized publicly. We're already known for being a bit pro-active on enforcement, so whether or not a neighbor complains would not affect me. Now if we were entirely complaint-based, then you've got a different matter because you are now changing tactics in a way that would be perceived as singling someone out and treating them differently than how you would normally.

    We have significant limits on what we can use as the basis for determining violations of property codes, illegal dumping, junked vehicle/nuisance, etc. This would be a touchy case to prove up, or at least prove up in such a way that I'd be comfortable with a TV camera jammed in my face with a reporter asking why I hate America. I could see issues because I'm sure this would be considered by many folks to be a vehicle collection, and they aren't really being placed in a way that you could easily call it an illegal dump, salvage yard, etc. He is neither being compensated for taking the vehicles, nor is he charging admission like some kind of commercial tour. So if it is me, I don't push the car graveyard issue based on our local codes.

    The race tracks, etc. are a different matter. We have requirements for water quality and stormwater management/detention. The racetracks would have required a site development permit with engineered civil drawings demonstrating compliance with our water quality and stormwater requirements. This I would definitely push because it could have potential impacts for adjacent landowners and is a clear violation. Given that these are racetracks and likely engineered facilities, he probably already has much of the data needed to design the proper stormwater facilities, submit and construct. If it is noise from him playing on the racetrack, then that is also easy to address by measuring decibels. I have no problem getting grilled on a case like that with good, solid footing.

    I've had friends deal with celebrity controversies before. In fact, in 2005 there was a big to-do around here involving Lance Armstrong. He had built a dam on his property (sans permits of course) that resulted in sedimentation and pollution of a nearby river and well-known swimming hole. He was cited for two state law violations involving his actions, but was not fined since he took corrective action to remediate the damage (supposedly cost him about $850K to clean-up). And this was involving the notoriously weak-kneed Texas Commission on Environmental Quality forcing the issue--I'm actually surprised they followed through like they did. He has also been kicked around for being one of the highest water users in the City of Austin, using $1.3M gallons per year on his 3 acre estate. I don't know if he's ever been cited for drought restriction violations, but around here with water considered a priceless commodity, open records requests from newspapers do the job for us in the court of public opinion.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    I am sure that unless there were numerous complaints, our higher ups would make sure he wasn't bothered. If we had someone famous who lived around here, I am sure the neighbors would just be happy to have them live here... screw the regulations... especially if it was a NASCAR driver.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Somewhere between the mountains and the ocean.
    There are several examples of well off people with very deep pockets having to follow the rules like everyone else.

    Would I treat him like everyone else, no. But would 'something' be done, absolutely. It might result in an amendment to the ordinance, to allow for such an activity based on yard size and if anything was visible from the public right-of-way. I know of a case where a residential dwellings was added to a district as a special use because someone famous (and wealthy) wanted to buy a former industrial building and use it as a second home and garage space.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
    Aug 2005
    Clearwater, FL

    Famous shmamous

    Sorry to disagree but we'd treat'em like anyone else and we have in the past. Case in point, we have a famous professional wrestler who lives in the area. About seven or eight years ago his wife had some scammy contractor do all sorts of work out at their house - no permits, code violations out the ying yang. He got snagged and ended up ripping a lot of stuff out and getting a variance for the rest - I forget the details but the requested variances were nothing out of line for the neighborhood. If we had given him an ounce of slack the papers would've ripped us a new one.

    You could tell he was pissed but he never took it out on staff and we were up front with him and let him know there was no way we could give him any special treatment. He was one heck of a gracious guy and was a gentleman about the whole thing and gave out autographed pictures to anyone who wanted one.

    we ran him through the proverbial wringer, though. Maybe even a little more than the average Joe - we wanted to make sure that no one could point to anything we did and cry "favouritism".
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  6. #6
    Nov 2006
    Washington DC
    Do the cars have any value as souvenirs? Find out what charities or causes he supports, then have them approach him to ask him to donate the cars so they can auction them off. Or, have another equally high profile celebrity or race car driver talk to him about better ways to dispose of cars, but done privately so he can save face.

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