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Clarkton Board visits overgrown property

By Erin Smith

A discussion regarding a blighted property on West Graham Street led to a visit of the site by the members of the Clarkton Town Board on Tuesday night.

The property is overgrown with Wisteria vines, trees and weeds. A freezer could be seen in the yard as well as an old automobile. The vines have overtaken the overhead utility wires.

A discussion of the property, which is shown as belonging to David Butler, was prompted by a question from Mr. Nye during the Open Forum session.  Mr. Nye resides near the blighted property and has followed the progress of attempts by the town board to have the owner clean the property.

Town Attorney Cliff Hester stated that he was requested by the town to write a letter to Butler last month. Hester said he had not written the letter after reviewing the information presented to him by Town Clerk Kentrina Woods at the March meeting.

“When I look at his response, what was given to me at the last meeting, it appears to me that we’d be asking him to put himself at risk by cleaning up some trees that are on power lines,” said Hester.

Mr. Nye replied, “Have you gone by and seen the property?”

Hester stated, “No, I haven’t”

Mr. Nye stated there are trees on the property that can be cut without disturbing the power lines. Hester reminded the board that it is Butler’s property and the board does not have the authority under their ordinance to tell him how the property should appear.

Mr. Nye stated there are snakes and rodents on the property. Hester told the board that the town can deal with the Butler property based only on the terms of the town’s ordinances.

Mr. Nye reminded the board that the original letter was written in July and he has been attending meetings regularly in an attempt to learn if the property will be cleaned up. After further discussion, the board members decided to travel to the property to view it.

In July 2018, the town board wrote a letter to Butler regarding the condition of the property. In the letter, it reads, “The property is in violation of the Town of Clarkton Code of Ordinances Section 14-2 and 14-81.”

The letter also advises Butler that he has 30 days from the date of the letter to contact Woods at the town hall to discuss what actions he will attempt to take.

In the January 2019  Clarkton town meeting, Woods presented a letter to the board from Mr. Butler outlining his attempts to have the problem with the overhead utility lines rectified. In his letter to the board, Butler outlines several attempts he has made to have Duke Energy to trim the trees and vines back away from the overhead utility lines.

His letter reads:

“I first called, last week of July about the problem with power lines on West Graham Street. E-mail sent to contractor, with a promise to have the work done. Called sometimes in September. No record of previous calls. Another e-mail.

Called October 5, was told no work because of no power to the house. Explained the problem again. E-mail and another promise to have work done. Called November 27. Was told the work was completed November 17.  “No it wasn’t.” then was told it was completed on August 7. Same response. E-mail to contractor.  Called December 6, same run around. E-mail sent. Called Jan. 4, another e-mail. Transferred to another person who would contact the contractor. Was told the work orders marked completed because someone looked at the lines and determined the lines didn’t belong to Duke Power. Couldn’t tell me who owned the lines. If the work could be done the power would be turned off to clear the lines.”

Butler also presented three work order numbers in his letter to the town.

Hester stated that Butler’s letter indicates he has taken steps to attempt to rectify the situation and that was what the town’s letter requested he do. He added the town can enforce its zoning ordinances regarding the property but the board cannot impose their personal opinions about the appearance of the property.

After viewing the property, the board reconvened at the town hall and requested Clarkton Public Works Director Chris Hall to contact Duke Energy to request the company clean the vines and trees off of the overhead utility lines at the property.  Hester stated that the town can also take action on the freezer and vehicle on the property based on the town’s ordinances.

In other business:

*The board heard a request from Wanda Burch regarding water from the highway which is collecting underneath her house. She asked the town board to consider placing some type of asphalt curbing to help direct the water away from her home. The board did not take any action on the matter but did agree to visit the property.

*The board also unanimously approved the purchase of water sampling equipment from Clearwater, Inc. Hall told the board this equipment is to replace sampling equipment that was damaged in Hurricane Florence. Hall said the funds from the town’s insurance policy are enough to cover the purchase.

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