CHESAPEAKE — It’s taking a pro-active stance about an unsightly problem: junk cars, abandoned houses and weeds as high as an elephant’s eye.
That’s the direction the Union Township Trustees are taking in light of the recent passage of House Bill 50 in the Ohio General Assembly.
“It is something we have to do. We have to adopt a program. We have our attorney drawing up the necessary papers as to what is legal and what is not,” Rick Gue, a Union Township Trustee, said.
The objects of the trustees include abandoned cars left out in the open, whether they are on a right-of-way, or parked in the front or back yard of someone’s house.
“We will be allowed to serve the people a notice to give them a chance to remove them or get them out of sight,” Gue said. “I think it is a problem everywhere. We have had a lot of complaints.”
A couple of weeks ago the trustees held a public hearing at the Lawrence County Municipal Court where the feedback on this initiative was positive, Gue said.
If the car owner does not respond to the notice to remove the vehicle, the trustees will next have a towing company pick it up.
“We will have someone actually do the towing, being under contract with the township,” he said. “They will pick it up and store it for a certain period of time.”
The expense of towing will be assessed to the car owner. If the owner doesn’t retrieve the vehicle, it will become the property of the towing company, which can dispose of it as it wishes.
It will be a comparable procedure for abandoned structures, land overgrown with vegetation or covered with trash. The homeowner will be notified and given a time period in which to remedy the situation, be it mowing the property or removing the trash or tearing down the abandoned, dilapidated structure.
If the homeowner ignores the notice, the township will go to court to get the area cleaned up.
“It will give us the authority to enforce having people clean it up or if we have to go in to clean it, will assess (the costs) to their taxes,” Gue said, adding that he expects the enforcement to begin by mid May.
Township attorney Brigham Anderson said the property owner will have 14 days to correct the situation before the township steps in. Notice may be given either through registered mail or a notice placed on the property.
However, it will be up to the public to make the trustees aware of these blighted conditions. Anyone with a complaint will have to make it publicly during a trustees’ meeting.
“They just can’t call us,” Gue said. “They will come to our meeting and that way we will have it in our minutes. We are not going out randomly. We have to be able to have people file a complaint. It is not something we are going in with guns blazing. We want to give people a chance to clean up their property.”