Home park targeted under nuisance law

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012

City aldermen have voted to warn the owner of a Brookhaven trailer park his property is in danger of being declared a chronic nuisance.

     Once he receives the warning, Charles Hayes, of Brandon, will have 15 days to present city leaders with a plan to halt recurring criminal incidents at Hayes Trailer Park, located on Industrial Park Road.

     If Hayes does not present such a plan within 15 days, board members may declare the property a chronic nuisance, and, upon further inaction by Hayes, refer the matter to city court where Hayes could face fines.

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     The warning will be the first use of a chronic nuisance property ordinance pushed by Ward Six Alderman David Phillips as a means to deal with the Hayes Trailer Park, located in Ward Six.

     “We want to improve living conditions for the residents of the park and of the area,” Phillips said.

     Phillips said aldermen believe Hayes may try to litigate the issue. Phillips’ motion to have city attorney Joe Fernald draft a warning was offered following an executive session to discuss litigation that may arise from the warning.

     “This is the first test of this ordinance, and we want to make it stick,” Phillips said.

     The pattern of criminal complaints at the trailer park this year has followed past trends, according to a summary of police reports provided by Phillips. There were six complaints in February, six complaints in March and two complaints in April as of April 6.

     Complaints this year include discharged firearms and sexual assault, though such complaints do not always reflect an actual incident.

     To be declared a nuisance property, there must have been three criminal complaints or code violations on a property within a 60-day period. However, the ordinance did not go into effect until about April 14. The ordinance was passed on March 6, but was not to become law until 30 days after publication of the ordinance in a local newspaper, and the ordinance was published on March 15 in The DAILY LEADER.

     The text of the ordinance states the board may issue a warning once it has received documentation of three or more nuisance activities. Though the activities reported by Phillips to the board Tuesday night all occurred prior to the date the ordinance became effective, Fernald believes the board’s decision to issue a warning remains valid.

     “We won’t be filing anything until we have actionable incidents,” Fernald said Wednesday morning.

     After Tuesday’s meeting, Fernald and Phillips both expressed confidence recent trends of complaints will continue.

     When asked Tuesday evening, Police Chief Pap Henderson said he did not know whether any complaints had occurred since April 14. He did note some calls to the site turn out to be trivial, though some are serious.

     Once Fernald has drafted the warning letter to Hayes, board members will have the opportunity to review it before it is sent. Hayes’ 15-day window to present a plan begins once he receives the letter.

     Hayes may present a plan to Henderson, Mayor Les Bumgarner or the board of aldermen. The city board has the authority to authorize a compliance period once a plan is presented.

     Phillips said he has never spoken to Hayes and has been unable to find a phone number at which to contact him. Therefore, after the meeting Phillips said he received no specific threat of litigation from Hayes, but Phillips fears Hayes may possibly do so as a means to delay the process.

     “We are proceeding with an abundance of caution,” Phillips said.