T he village is stepping up efforts to address property maintenance violations and has asked for the assistance of local law enforcement in enforcing the junk and abandoned vehicles law.
For the past several weeks, the Whitehall Police Department, in coordination with village code enforcement, has been issuing notices of violation to local property owners who have junk cars stored on their property.
The notice informs residents they are in violation of the law and that if they do not remedy the situation, could face further legal action, including fines.
In addition, the village has sent letters to “10 to 15” property owners who are known to be in violation of the law.
“This has everything to do with the health of the community. We are not trying to cause anyone misery but we’re trying to make this a more attractive community for people to live in,” said Mayor Peter Telisky.
Village officials have been trying to combat property maintenance violations, including abandoned and junk cars, for more than a year.
Last June, the Board of Trustees pledged to be more vigilant in enforcing violations, and thus far those efforts have been met with varying degrees of success. The latest round of letters was mailed out earlier this month and Telisky said it’s still too early to gauge its success or people’s response to it.
“Some people have done stuff with their properties. There are thing happening the village that are encouraging,” said Telisky. “We’ve asked on many occasions for help in removing those cars and some people have responded, but others have ignored us and that’s where we are now.”
He said with the price being paid for scrap metal and the fact that many scrappers will come to your home to retrieve a vehicle there is little reason not to have the vehicles removed.
By the law
According to the local law, it is “unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to store or deposit, or cause to be stored or deposited, an abandoned, junked, discarded, and unlicensed motor vehicle upon any vacant land or vacant place upon the surface of any lot of land within the village.”
Those vehicles can be stored in a garage or on a lawn — if they are out of sight from the street.
The law goes on to state that the village has the authority to remove and dispose of the vehicle and the cost of doing so can then be assessed onto the owner’s taxes. The village can also issue fines of up to $100 to violators.
The village is also fighting property owners who don’t cut the grass in their lawns. A property on Davis Street is indicative of the problem: The grass is several feet tall and there are weeds that reach as high as the second floor.
Besides looking unattractive, the unkempt lawns represent a fire hazard, especially in light of a dry summer. And with many of the houses in the village so close together, a small fire could escalate into a larger fire in a short amount of time.
Telisky said one of the problems the village is facing is the fact by the time they can compel someone to act and the complete the legal process—typically 30 days—the grass has grown back and the process begins anew. He said official have been trying to get one property owner to cut their grass for more than 40 days.
Another problem is some of the properties in question have been foreclosed on and are owned by banks. Those banks can often be convinced to clean up the problem, but getting a hold of them isn’t always easy.
If the village is unsuccessful in getting people to comply or an ordinance proves deficient, Telisky said the board may consider doing things to make it stronger.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of life in the village,” he said.