NEW MARKET – Town officials warned dozens of property owners last year to remove trash, vehicles and debris from their lots or face consequences.
Town Manager J. Todd Walters updated Planning Commission members at their meeting on Monday on the nuisance problem as part of his zoning administrator’s report. The town has issued 50 notices since May to property owners for violations of New Market’s nuisance regulations.
Violations can range from high grass to trash accumulation on a lot, Walters explained by phone Thursday. In some cases, the severity of a violation can escalate, Walters said.
Walters focused his report on a visible eyesore that arose with the accumulation of inoperable vehicles and trash at 9198 John Sevier Road — a rental home near the community park on John Sevier Road.
Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office deputies in December arrested two residents living in the house and charged them with several counts of animal abuse and neglect. The deputies discovered dozens of animals on the property after the owner evicted the tenants on Dec. 10, according to information from the Sheriff’s Office. The animals included chickens and dogs. Deputies found more than 50 animals — birds, rabbits and dogs, some of which were dead — on the property, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The problem of accumulated vehicles and parts on the property has existed for years, Walters said Thursday. However, the accumulated trash and even a boat remained mostly out of sight in a wooded area on the property. But, as the town issued nuisance violation letters for the property, the owner began pulling the vehicles, trash and other items out of the woods and to an adjacent, vacant lot. This made the items more visible, Walters said.
People who rented the property had accumulated the items over time, Walters explained. Town officials knew the vehicles and trash were somewhat hidden in the woods, passersby likely could not see the accumulation from the street, Walters said. Most of the items were vehicles and vehicle parts, he said.
Ultimately, the property owner moved the items from behind the house to an adjacent vacant lot that he leases but does not own, Walters said.
“Now it’s really visible,” Walters said.
The problem persisted long before the owner took measures to clean up the property, Walters said. In some ways, the town’s efforts to remedy the problem made the situation worse.
“It wasn’t as visible as it is today, I will say that, on that vacant lot,” Walters said.
The owner has made an effort to remove the vehicles and other debris from the lot, Walters said, adding that the owner did not live in the area for months as New Market issued violation notices.
“He wasn’t here and that doesn’t make it any easier trying to get a hold of these people and trying to track them down,” Walters said.
Many localities enforce nuisance ordinances and deal with problems similar to those in New Market, Walters added. New Market issues violation notices to property owners and, if the problems are not remedied, the town can take action, such as mow high grass. The property owner must then cover the cost of the action.
“We don’t look for these things, and you’re not trying to be hard on people but the reason you have nuisance ordinances you ... want to keep your town looking good and you want people to maintain their properties,” Walters said.