Beautification effort targets unsightly houses, vehicles

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

As a countywide campaign encourages litter and garbage clean upefforts, city officials are targeting abandoned cars anddilapidated houses.

Brookhaven Building Inspector Steve Moreton said the city’s”spring cleaning” effort follows a fall campaign that concentratedon old, rundown buildings and lots.

“I’ve already started with a new list of houses,” Moreton said.”We’ve started tearing down houses on the list from November.”

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An added twist for the spring is a renewed focus on old andabandoned cars in yards. As he’s done with buildings, Moreton saidhe has been traveling around the city marking vehicles withfluorescent orange X’s.

Among parts of the city already covered, Moreton mentioned thathe marked 13 vehicles on Bryant Street. He has not made it all overtown yet.

“I’m eventually going to get there,” Moreton said.

Moreton is scheduled to talk about the house and vehicle planswith aldermen at tonight’s board meeting. The appearance is thefirst step in the city’s procedure for tearing down buildings orremoving vehicles and then charging the property owners for thework.

The inspector said marking the cars already has produced someresults without the city having to go through the formalprocedure.

“I really appreciate those people who have moved the cars ontheir own,” Moreton said.

A city law prohibits any vehicle that creates an unsightlycondition on a lot and places responsibility for upkeep with theproperty owner.

Moreton said a vehicle may be considered abandoned if it doesnot have an up-to-date license plate and a current inspectionsticker. He said a license plate may be obtained even for a vehiclethat is “up on blocks,” but a current inspection stickerdemonstrates that the vehicle is in operating condition.

Property owners deemed to have abandoned vehicles on their lotsare sent a letter and given 10 days to remove them to junkyards orelsewhere off the property. If there is no action, the city mayremove the vehicle and charge the property owner.

Moreton said there is an initial $50 towing fee plus a $15 dailystorage fee. He said the owner of a vehicle impounded as briefly astwo months could face an $800 bill.

While some owners may consider old vehicles in their yards aproperty rights issue, Moreton cited community appearance concerns.He said residents should want to take pride in their property andhow their neighborhood looks.

“It opens the yards up,” Moreton said about clearing the lots ofold vehicles.

Moreton encouraged property owners to take the initiative andremove old and abandoned vehicles without his having to mark themor the city taking other action.

“I don’t have to come. They know,” Moreton said.