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Unsightly properties cited in Berkeley County

December 08, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • This property on Trough Hill Road in Bunker Hill, W.Va., is described as an 'atrocity.' Dead animals were found on trash-strewn property. No water, sewer or electric service to two residential structures was found upon initial visit and the property was subsequently condemned.
Submitted photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A new agency charged with overseeing the cleanup of unsafe and unsightly structures in Berkeley County recommended the citation of five troubled properties Wednesday in the first of what could be a wider crackdown.

After hearing presentations about the deteriorated condition of properties along Opequon Lane, Trough Hill Road, Mish Road, Misty Drive and W.Va. 901, the Safe and Clean County Enforcement Agency agreed with Berkeley County Code Enforcement/Litter Control Officer Donna Seiler’s request to issue citations.

After the meeting, Seiler said she could have presented more than 20 other structures that need to be made safe, demolished and/or cleaned up to the agency but that would have been overwhelming for everyone involved.

The initiative to control unsafe, hazardous and dilapidated structures was made possible by the Berkeley County Commission’s adoption of an ordinance to provide for a “clean and safe county,” which took effect Oct. 1. The ordinance also outlines litter control regulations and enforcement.

Upon receiving a citation for a structure, owners have 10 days to file an appeal with the County Commission. If the property is not cleaned up by the owners, the commission has the authority to hire a contractor to do the work, place a lien on the property and have it sold to recoup the money as well as any court costs, officials said.

The county also could levy fines of $100 for each day of noncompliance.

“It’s going to be a huge benefit for this county,” Seiler said of the enforcement tools provided by the ordinance.

On Wednesday, the Safe and Clean County Enforcement Agency recommended citations be issued to clean up the following properties;

  • 298 Opequon Lane: The walls and roof of the large home that burned there are gone, but the smell is “atrocious,” according to Seiler. The basement is filled with water, and children live nearby. Notice of violation was sent in July 2009.
  • Trough Hill Road, Bunker Hill, W.Va.: Described as an “atrocity,” the trash-strewn property contains dead animals. No water, sewer or electric service to two residential structures was found in the initial visit, and the property was subsequently condemned. Feces, more than an inch thick, was found on floor of a mobile home. Notice of violation was sent in August 2009.
  • Mish Road, Bunker Hill: Unsecured dwelling described as a “hazard to the fullest extent” has open and unsecured cistern. Home has twice been set on fire and the property has been used as a dump site for asphalt. Seiler has “good reason” to believe a homeless person is residing in the cistern. Notice of violation sent in December 2008.
  • W.Va. 901, North Mountain, Hedgesville, W.Va.: Sold at tax sale, this old home is in “extreme poor repair.” Tin roof partially peeled open to the elements and only parts of second floor remain. Home is close to the road and neighboring homes. Notice of violation sent in February 2010.
  • Misty Drive, two Potomac River Lots, Martinsburg: Structures in flood plain have been left to the elements for more than 10 years, and the property has since been condemned. Notice of violation was sent in April 2009.

While the new agency has no oversight over county litter control efforts, Seiler reported Wednesday that the visibility of trash and illegal dumps have increased thanks to the change in seasons and fallen leaves.

“This is when my job starts really revving up,” Seiler said.

On Tuesday, Seiler said she issued a violation notice for litter to a woman who had more than 100 bags of garbage piled up against her mobile home. At first, Seiler only spotted a washing machine, a little bit of trash and some tires at the property.

Seiler also reported that large numbers of people are taking advantage of the landfill’s “free dump day” because they can’t afford trash pickup.

“That’s a tool that they can use,” Seiler said. “They just need to use containers — put your trash in a container and take it (to the dump) once a month. Anything over 30 days, however, becomes a problem.”

Residents who throw trash along the road or elsewhere could very well lead to a citation from Seiler, who said she doesn’t hesitate to rummage through garbage to track down where it originated. Individuals can be fined up to $25,000 for littering, under state code.

“I want them to be aware, I’m going to go through it,” Seiler said. “And I’ll come to your house.”

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