Eyesores dwindle

Published 8:15 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

WINDSOR – At last week’s meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, county Planning Director Traci White, who reported on roadside litter collections in the county for 2013, had more good news for the board.

Thanks to the county’s Junkyards and Abandoned Motor Vehicles Ordinance, which has been in place since 2006, violations county-wide have gone down, with only four notices issued during all of 2013 and that quartet came back in the spring of the year (May & June).

“We haven’t had that many this year, but if you look at the past years we’ve tried to get those under control since the ordinance was adopted,” said White. “There were a lot more at first, but now it’s more of a monitoring issue and of course you get some new ones here and there and you get some complaints sometimes.”

Commissioner Ronald “Ron” Wesson said there used to be as many as 25-26 abandoned vehicles and junked cars found on county properties in years past and that a drop to four was significant.

“Does that mean we’ve got our hands around them,” Wesson inquired. “Are the numbers down because there are not as many, not because we don’t have the resources to go out and get them?”

White said it is a requirement that owners remove the vehicles and she brought along before-and-after photos of county properties to illustrate her point, though she did not name specific properties or owners.

“We have some areas that have greatly improved from what they were when we first adopted (the ordinance), so I believe it’s working because the numbers are down.”

Commissioner John Trent asked whether the ordinance covers personal property taxes on vehicles without tags and registrations.

“I don’t know about the tax issue,” answered White, “but if it (a vehicle) is not licensed or is moveable by its own power then it’s considered a junk vehicle and it’s supposed to be removed from the property.”

Barry Anderson, the county’s Nuisance Abatement Enforcement Officer said while there was originally a policy of knocking on doors and informing citizens of potential violations of the ordinance, the new policy constitutes information being sent through the mail.

“Once they receive the letter I give them roughly ten days to contact me to discuss the issues that they have,” said Anderson. “From that point we then begin the process of either applying the ordinance or going farther.”

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked about the number of letters that had been sent out by Anderson’s office, and was told 15, of which 11 were in compliance.

“Historically, if they get the advisement letters they’ll (usually) come into compliance and you don’t have to issue a violation,” said White. “Usually they become aware of the rules of the ordinance that way and then they’ll go ahead and comply.”

White did maintain, however, that there are still some violators who force the county to take the next step in the process of enforcing the ordinance.

“There’re some who’re not going to comply until they get a letter from the attorney’s office,” she said.

Wesson, meanwhile, continued to drive the point of the success of the program by way of enforcing the ordinance.

“Are the numbers down because there’re fewer problems,” he asked. “Or is the number down because there’s a lot of work going on around and less focus here and there?”

White continued to defend the ordinance.

“I think it’s doing what it was established to do,” she said.