Board will seek help with laws on unsightly yards

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In their ongoing effort to keep neighborhoods clean of junk carsand other unsightly conditions, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermenagreed in Monday night’s work session to consult other cities ofsimilar sizes to find out what strategies are proving successfulelsewhere.

“All of us are dedicated to making our community a goodcommunity,” said Mayor Bob Massengill. “We’re here to discuss anddetermine if our policies are adequate, and if they are, how theyare being enforced and if we need to strengthen them.”

Among the problems the aldermen discussed were the methods ofnotifying a resident when cars, boats, RVs or other refuse on aperson’s property have been deemed unsightly and must be tendedto.

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Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes said while she has had somesuccess with calling people and asking them to clean up their yard,that it doesn’t always work.

“If I see something I consider unsightly or get a complaintabout something, I’d like to believe it won’t have to go on foreverto get it taken care of,” she said.

Alderman at Large Les Bumgarner pointed out that some people areafraid to complain about their neighbors because they don’t wanttheir names used.

“People want to be good neighbors,” he said.

Director of Public Works Steve Moreton reminded the board thatmany of the people who own the property considered unsightly are indifferent stages of bankruptcy or foreclosure, and some live out oftown. More than that, he said, the city needs more manpower toenforce the laws already in place.

“It’s real easy to sit around here and say what you want to do,but if you go to their door and talk about a car, they’ll threatenyour life,” Moreton said. “You can take the police, and it’s alittle better. But the manpower we need is not here.”

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said he thought hitting offendersin the pocketbook is the best way to go. He said during a recentvisit to Los Angeles, he observed that city’s policy on maintainingaesthetically pleasing property.

“If you don’t keep your yard trimmed, they’re going to add it toyour tax or water bill,” he said. “You’re either going to have togo by the city ordinance or you’re going to pay.”

But Bates went on to point out the problem is not the peoplethat want to help, but the people who don’t.

“We’re trying to help the people who want the city to look likea Homeseeker’s Paradise,” he said. “But there are some who justdon’t care.”

At one point, City Attorney Joe Fernald told the board that ifthe city is going to send out letters stating that there have beencomplaints on a property, they must be willing to disclose who thecomplainants were. Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said it was alot of trouble to go to, and Fernald reminded him that acting asthe state, the city cannot allude to information they can’t orwon’t discuss.

In addition, Fernald said, the city must be willing to back upwhatever parties are enlisted to back up the rules. He cited a casewhere the city sided with a landowner after a police officer wassent to tow away an unsightly vehicle.

“If you’re going to do it, you’d better hunker down and draw theline and support the people who have to enforce this,” he said.”Chief (Pap) Henderson will have to be the one to enforce theserules.”

The board also discussed different views of the term”unsightly,” and what constitutes an unsightly condition. Thegeneral consensus was that there are many differentdefinitions.

Following further discussion, Massengill finally decided tocontact McComb, Natchez, Clinton and Brandon to find out what theirstrategies are.

“Why reinvent the wheel if they’ve got something tested, triedand true and we could adopt it?” he said.