Clean your yards, code enforcement in full swing

Clean your yards, code enforcement in full swing

CALDWELL COUNTY- Residents of Caldwell County might want to consider parting ways with junk cars and trash heaps to spare themselves a visit from the county code enforcement officers- and move out of RVs and campers. 

During Monday's Caldwell County Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners heard a progress update from local code enforcement officers, Curt Willis, who is enforcing junk ordinances, and Teresa Kinney, who is enforcing zoning ordinances. 

Willis was the first to speak, giving a thorough presentation of the many blights he’s helped to clean up in the six months he’s partnered with the county. Willis is currently the code enforcement supervisor at The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) and handles code enforcement for Caldwell County and several of the county’s municipalities. 

“Our vision for code enforcement is to be an assistant to the county and municipalities,” he said. “We want to provide a fair and unbiased enforcement of the ordinances, and correct the violations, and have the people become compliant.”

Willis also explained that as long as citizens are complying and communicating with the code enforcement officers, they try to extend as much grace as possible, as well as extend the time citizens have to comply to up to 60 days. 

While WPGOC offers several services, Willis is tasked with enforcing junk and debris nuisances, and junk and nuisance motor vehicles for county residents.

To qualify as a junk vehicle, Willis said, “the vehicle has to not have a license plate, if it has a current license plate, it does not matter what it looks like, we can not write it up.”

“If it does not have that, and it appears to have been wrecked, appears to not be able to move itself…like it’s sitting on flat tires with grass up to the doors, if it’s in pieces that are laying around in the yard, it’s considered a junk vehicle,” Willis said. 

While flipping through various before and after photographs of trash piles, abandoned vehicles, and nuisance properties found around the county, Willis detailed that the code enforcement officers take cases on a complaint basis.

“Trash is the garbage…what we all know as garbage and trash that we throw away. Junk would be old appliances, old tires, any kind of steel stuff, barrels, stuff like that.”

Willis also said debris complaints would be handled, such as tree limbs and abandoned construction areas.  

“Part of what I do I feel like is the Lord’s work, because somewhere there’s a wife that is so glad that truck is leaving or there’s a husband that’s so glad his mother-in-laws car is finally leaving.” 

Kinney took to the podium next to say, “zoning enforcement is probably not as dramatic.”

“I work on basically the flood damage prevention ordinance…which helps you maintain your insurance program, so people that do have properties located in a flood zone can maintain their subsidized insurance through the (Federal Emergency Management Agency)"

Kinney also handles complaints such as property breaches and reports of people living in RVs or Campers. 

“In the state of North Carolina…campers are not to be used as a means of permanent residence, and that seems to be something that we get a complaint on quite often here in the county.”

That comment piqued the interest of Commissioner Jeff Branch, who said, “I don’t like that idea.”

“I wonder if we could change ours to where people can live in campers?  I know people that sell their house and buy a $500,000 camper and live in it, and travel. As long as they’re hooked up to water and sewer, why can’t somebody live in that camper?,” he asked. 

Kinney then reiterated that the ordinance comes directly from North Carolina mandates, and that to impose a new ordinance would entail speaking with the county attorney for further assistance.

County Manager Donald Duncan spoke up saying, “We do have what I would call a compromise, where if someone is building a home…they can live in a camper, as long as there is an active building permit.”

Vice Chairman Mike Labrose capped the conversation by saying, “I just want to thank the COG (WPCOG) and both of you for helping Caldwell County…we want to make sure we don’t infringe on property owner rights, but then again we want to make sure our county is kept clean and presentable, for people to come and live, and raise a family.”

“I know some people are pack rats, and that’s okay…just keep it orderly, keep it nice,” he said. 

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