Garyville street code violations go unattended

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

GARYVILLE – A dispute over a backyard with overgrown grass and at least two abandoned vehicles on the property that has left one Garyville resident frustrated appears to be nearing a resolution.
One parish official confirmed that steps have been taken to force the resident of the South Church Street residence to cut the grass and have the vehicles removed. Neighbor Anna Maguire, who lives three houses away, is hopeful something will be done.
“There are snakes back there, old wood rotted out,” she said. “Once when I was walking my dog, rats and a snake came running out (of the yard).”
“These vehicles should have been picked up long ago,” she added. “They’ve been there for years.”
For Maguire, however, the process has been as frustrating as battling the rodents and other critters residing in the unsightly mess located at 532 S. Church St. She said she initially notified the parish in June, and a code enforcement officer inspected the property, promising action within 90 days.
90 days passed, however, and with still no results Maguire called again. At that point, according to her, she was told there was no record of the inspection on file.
“They acted like they (didn’t) know what I’m talking about,” she said.
Maguire said she called the code enforcement officer, and according to her, he told her the office lost the paperwork. The code enforcement officer said he would have to revisit the property and complete more paperwork, Maguire said.
However, in December the code enforcement officer resigned from the parish, and according to Maguire she was told the process would have to start anew.
“They keep redoing the same stuff over and over again,” she said.
A parish official, however, has disputed Maguire’s claim of the alleged misplaced record, saying there was no record of the original report on file and that if it had been entered into the computer as the process requires then the information could not have gotten lost.
A source has confirmed the person living in the house, David Hodge, has promised to cut the grass and clear out the yard.
Hodge did not return a phone call seeking comment. According to the parish Assessor’s Office, the property is owned by Hodge’s mother, Dixie Ramirez, who at one time owned Southwest Title Company in LaPlace.
Parish Planning and Zoning Director Angelic Sutherland said a multi-step process is in place to investigate potential code violations. Once a complaint is received she said a work order is drawn up and given to an enforcement officer.
The parish currently has three part-time officers and is seeking to hire a fourth. Each officer, Sutherland said, is assigned a specific district to patrol and investigate.
She said the officer is required to submit a report based on his investigation, and, depending on the violation, warnings will be issued with deadlines given to complete the work.
In some cases property owners will receive a second notice, and if it’s an overgrown grass violation, the parish may have to step in and cut the grass, with the cost being billed to the property owners.
“We have several contractors that we use,” Sutherland said, adding that the parish receives numerous complaints of grass violations. “We bill the owner, and if they don’t pay we put a lien on the property.”
She did say some flexibility is used depending on the circumstances, such as ground being too wet to physically cut the grass.
The towing of abandoned vehicles had recently been put on hold while the District Attorney’s office revised the existing policy, she said. But those officers are no longer commissioned, forcing the revision.
She said the new policy should soon be finalized, and that her office has a list of vehicles to inspect and potentially tow.
“I would like to see (Hodge’s) yard cleared up, vehicles removed, the sidewalk cleared up to the point where when we walk down the sidewalks. We don’t have to worry about if there’s going to be (debris) on the sidewalk or covered with dirt,” she said. “Something like that is a health threat. It should not be in a neighborhood.”
She may soon get her wish.