When it comes to vehicles that don’t run and aren’t properly licensed, one person’s weekend project can be another’s eyesore.
Defining the difference in order to protect public safety and keep neighborly harmony is the job of the city.
Earlier this month the city approved a number of changes to the city’s code of ordinances to help better define municipal ordinances — notably codes that govern junked and abandoned vehicles.
“One of the biggest problems we have regarding junked vehicles in the city is public education,” said Sonny Wilson, Waxahachie’s director of sanitation. “People aren’t aware of the ordinances and what they need to do.”
Wilson said the city’s code enforcement unit receives a high number of junked vehicle complaints each month.
Under the municipal code, what is a junked vehicle?
According to the revised wording of the ordinance, a junked vehicle is a motor vehicle that is self-propelled and,
Does not have lawfully attached to it a). an unexpired license plate and b) a valid motor vehicle inspection certificate; and Is wrecked, dismantled or partially dismantled or inoperable and has remained inoperable for more than 72 consecutive hours on public property or 30 consecutive days if the vehicle is on private property.
If a junked vehicle (or vehicle parts) remain inoperable on public property for 72 consecutive hours or 30 days on private property if it is visible from a public place or public right-of-way, the city may declare the vehicle a public nuisance.
The vehicle (or vehicle parts) may be declared a public nuisance if it:
Is detrimental to the safety and welfare of the public Tends to reduce the value of private property Invites vandalism Creates a fire hazard Is an attractive nuisance creating a hazard to the health and safety of minors Produces urban blight adverse to the maintenance and continuing development of the municipality.
The ordinance does not apply to vehicle (or vehicle parts) that are completely enclosed in a building in a lawful manner and are not visible from the street or other public or private property.
Likewise, it doesn’t apply to vehicles that are parked or stored in a lawful manner on private property if it is an antique or special interest vehicle stored by a collector and is properly maintained.
“Basically, if it’s in operation and properly licensed, it’s not going to be a problem,” Wilson said. “If it’s not licensed, there is going to be a problem.”
He added when a complaint has been filed, the code enforcement unit investigates the complaint and notifies the owner if a code violation has been found.
“Basically, we want the owner to take care of the problem and we try to work with them on getting the problem resolved,” he said, adding in some cases the owner did not know they were in violation of municipal ordinances.
Owners could also face a fine of up to $200, with additional fines for each day the violation continues.
In cases where the owner fails to comply with the code, the city can have the vehicle (or vehicle parts) removed if it is found to constitute a public nuisance by the municipal court once abatement procedures have been initiated. That procedure may begin after the owner has received a 10-day notice to remove the vehicle and has failed to comply.
Wilson said the code enforcement unit is willing to work with property owners — especially on first-time offenses — but there is a very delicate line in terms of providing uniform enforcement of the ordinances.
“We want to be fair to everyone,” Wilson. “But most of our junked vehicle cases originated with a complaint from a neighbor or fellow citizens. The bottom line is that we want all of our residents to comply with the code which works to everyone’s benefit.”
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