The rocking chair on the porch is fine, the couch and the busted car have got to go.

The new changes in code enforcement regarding outdoor storage and junk vehicles approved by Waxahachie City Council are now currently in effect.

“Our city is kind of like a lot of other cities – we have pockets in areas of town where there are homeowners that have violations. What we have done in the past is that we have had ordinances to address them like rubbish, debris or high grass,” director of environmental health Sonny Wilson said.

“When you’re looking at junk, debris and rat harborage type situations sometimes there is a bit of a gray area when you look at somebody’s property,” he said. “Some of our citizens who were complaining that there were places in town that code enforcement needed to clean up came in and met with us. We started looking at what other cities do. A lot of the cities now are adopting ordinances or amending their ordinance on code enforcement to include no outside storage in public view.”

Wilson said that since this concern was expressed to his office he brought the idea of making a change to the ordinance. The council showed interest and Wilson and his staff began to write the amendment. The change that was adopted was not to allow the storage of items in public view. The ordinance does not apply to items such a porch swings, outdoor furniture, children’s play equipment or other items designed to be used and stored outside. 

“In the past, a guy might have some lumber in the front yard that he planned to do something with. Of course, he doesn’t have a permit but it’s stacked up on bricks that is six inches off the ground,” he said.

“We really couldn’t say that was a violation because that was not rat harborage because it was up off the ground. But people are complaining about it and it looks unsightly.”

The amendment relates to section 15-32, which covers offensive conditions for health and sanitation. The amended section addresses the storage of junk merchandise, commodities and any other item not stored inside an enclosed building. Items have to be out of public view, behind a solid fence or a wall that is at least six feet in height. They also can be behind a main structure or not visible from a public right of way. Items stored outdoors in public view can’t be there for a period longer than 24 hours. Exemptions to the ordinance include construction material or equipment that is intended to be used within 30 days, renovation on the property or where an active building permit for the property exists.

The storage of upholstered furniture made for indoor use is prohibited from being stored outdoors in public view. Wilson said upholstered furniture, if left outside, has the tendency to mold, mildew and smell. These items also create an area for rats to nest inside and create a health hazard.

With the changes, Wilson said his code inspectors are not going to knit-pick people to find violations but will use their best judgment.

A second ordinance change approved by the council relates to section 17-51, which concerns junk vehicles. Under the city ordinance, a junked vehicle is defined as a vehicle that has an expired license plate and a invalid motor inspection certificate. It further defines that a junked vehicle is wrecked, dismantled or partially dismantled, discarded or inoperable for more than 72 hours on public property and 30 days on private property. A vehicle also has to be parked on an improved surface such as gravel, asphalt or concrete.

At some point in the past, the city had OK’d the use of tarps for concealing a junked vehicle.

“Whoever was on the council at that time decided to let them put some tarps on it or something. If it was nicely covered it wasn’t a problem,” Wilson said. “Now were seeing a lot of vehicles with just tarps just thrown over them and they sit there forever; one of them may be a green tarp and the next one may be orange.

“None of them are really made for screening a car,” he said. “We get more complaints on the unsightliness of those tarps than the junk vehicles. They are flapping in the wind and they get torn up and ragged after a short time. The people that are really wanting us to get involved in code enforcement said that we have to do something about that.”

The amended ordinance says a vehicle has to be screened from ordinary public view in an appropriate manner, which means it has to behind a solid fence at least 6 feet in height or behind growing trees or shrubs. A vehicle is not considered to be a junked vehicle when stored outdoors if it is operable, has a current registration, has a current safety inspection, is parked legally on an improved surface and, if covered, is covered with a cover specifically designed for the vehicle. Square or rectangular tarps are prohibited from being used as covers. A vehicle also has to be maintained in an orderly manner and not considered to be a health hazard.

For questions about the ordnance changes and other code enforcement issues, call Wilson at City Hall at 972-937-7330, ext. 150.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.