Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Zoning enforcement blues: 351 Summit Avenue update

Effective code and zoning enforcement is an essential element in revitalizing and maintaining older urban neighborhoods. Without them, irresponsible, predatory, or just plain lazy propery owners can bring real estate values in a neighborhood crashing down.

A while back I noticed that an illegal junkyard had taken root just ouside my neighborhood -- hardly more than a stone's throw from my house, and I put up a post about my efforts to get the situation remedied.

Well, the situation still isn't fixed. The junkyard is still there, though the owners have begun putting a six-foot privacy fence around it. I think they're doing this in response to prodding from the city's zoning enforcement staff.

Here's the relevant bit of zoning ordinance:

Section 30-5.2.48(2) Junked motor vehicles (as an accessory use). Nonresidential Districts: Any vehicle meeting the definition of "Junked Motor Vehicle" shall be stored, parked, or placed on the property in such a manner so as to be screened from view from any street and/or from any adjacent residentially or public and institutionally zoned property. Total screening shall be effected by placement of the vehicles, either within or behind a building, or by plant materials, fences, berms, or a combination thereof, with a minimum height off six (6) feet [my emphasis].
So it would seem that putting up a six-foot privacy fence would solve the problem, right?

I don't think so.

First of all, the junkard in this instance is the primary use of the property, not an accessory use. Secondly, the six-foot privacy fence does not screen the junked vehicles from view from the street, as this photo taken from Fisher Avenue clearly demonstrates:

This fall, when the leaves are gone, the junkard will be even more exposed.

I'm corresponding with city staff on this issue, and will keep you updated as to their determination. But to be honest, I'm having a bad feeling about this. I've never had a go-round with zoning staff in which they agreed with my interpretation of the ordinance.

What do you think?


Anna Haynes said...

So, what happens if you inform city staff beforehand, that you'll be posting your correspondence with them on your blog, with names, and - if they decide that the junkyard is ok - you'll post their justification, and their response (or not) to your counterarguments?

Sunlight being the best of disinfectants and all...

David Wharton said...

I've hesitated to name names, mostly because I think the staff I've been working with are honestly trying to do their job in a way that's fair to everyone involved. Zoning enforcement is a hard job.

But since their final determination is obviously a matter of public record, I won't have any compunction about posting that -- it's the sort of thing that turns up in the newspaper all the time.

Glenwood said...

lay it out. Good post. stay on them. If you do not....junked cars turn to dilapadated housing...which turns to an appearnace and attitude that nobody cares what happens in this area. Crime comes...then...violence...robbery..stay on them.....holler if u need me.

Anna Haynes said...

"since their final determination is obviously a matter of public record, I won't have any compunction about posting that"

Yes, but it's also helpful to provide their specific answers to your specific questions. It's easy for people to look reasonable with their justification(s), if they can just ignore the arguments against.

Glenwood said...


Could you give an update to this situation?