Wendell residents angry of violation letters from the town

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comNovember 4, 2013 

— Town commissioners put a temporary stop to plans initiated after residents complained at an Oct. 28 meeting about letters from the town alleging violations of town ordinances.

The letters alleged a variety of violations, including grass that was too tall, trash cans left on the street toolong, cars parked in front yards and junky yards.

Bill Finch led the short parade of residents angry with commissioners for what he called a lack of common sense.

Finch, who spoke to commissioners from his wheelchair, told commissioners his disability made it necessary to park close to his house where he had access to a handicapped ramp.

“We’re going to be butting heads frequently. I am tired of getting these stupid letters in the mail. Use a little thimbleful of common sense,” Finch said.

The town sent Finch a letter outlining his violation on Oct. 16, and Finch began calling commissioners to complain about the letter.

“I’m doing the best I can and if you can’t see that,” Finch told commissioners, “I guess we can let the lawyers work it out.”

The town issued 395 violation letters between Oct. 14 and Oct. 28. The largest number of those violations were for trash cans left in the town’s right of way. There were 41 violations for parking in the yard – the violation that drew Finch’s ire.

The town sent 42 letters for trash and debris left outside homes, a violation that caused Shane Blow to complain to commissioners.

“I’m the type of person, when I get pushed, I push back ... I’m the type of person who will cover my entire yard in gravel and paint it red. I don’t care. People won’t like it, but that’s the type of person I am,” Blow said.

The complaints came after commissioners agreed to change the code enforcement officer’s job description, essentially making code enforcement his only responsibility. Prior to that, the town spent one day a week looking for violations. The change came following a discussion of housing standards and the need for greater enforcement of those rules. But in the two weeks after the change.only six housing complaints were registered.

Commissioners moved quickly after the complaints to put a stop to the problem.

Hinnant asked for a moratorium on enforcement of the town codes that relate to anything involving wheels, including trash cans and vehicles.

“We want to give the town staff time to go back and look at this to see if there’s a better way to do this,” Hinnant said.

Commissioners agreed to that change. Several said they didn’t realize the changes they endorsed would result in such a steep increase in violation notices.

“I am in violation of some of these ordinances at times, myself,” Commissioner James Parham said.

Hinnant said elected leaders probably weren’t aware of all the ordinances that would come into play with the stepped-up enforcement.

The nuisance ordinances have been discussed before. Commissioner Christie Adams, who was not present at the Oct. 28 meeting, has pushed for greater enforcement of the rules.

Town Manager Teresa Piner said the ordinances are hard to keep straight. “We have some in the code of ordinances and there are others that are listed in the (Unified Development Ordinance) so they are in several places,” Piner said.

Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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