Runaway debris illegal in Stark Co.Is your neighbor’s runaway debris blowing into your yard and you’re sick of it? It might be a case for the State’s Attorney Office, and the offender can face up to a Class B misdemeanor — punishable with up to 30 days in prison or a $1,000 fine.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Is your neighbor’s runaway debris blowing into your yard and you’re sick of it? It might be a case for the State’s Attorney Office, and the offender can face up to a Class B misdemeanor — punishable with up to 30 days in prison or a $1,000 fine.
That’s because blowing trash and other waste is illegal under Stark County’s nuisance ordinance. Law enforcement can decide to issue a ticket in any instance, and then it’s up to the State’s Attorney Office to choose whether it will prosecute.
And there are a growing number of public nuisance complaints due to debris from development in the area.
But the Stark County Commission recommended last week that the county planner, sheriff’s office and State’s Attorney Office collaborate on drafting a new ordinance to allow for better enforcement of the law and bring the recommendation back at a later meeting.
“It may have to be a longer term project,” said County Planner Steve Josephson. “As the county grows, we’re probably going to get more and more complaints in those areas that are closer to Dickinson and the cities are probably going to get more complaints and we need to be ready to deal with this stuff.”
Commissioner Jay Elkin said the county has some issues with “weeds or even dust blowing into adjacent subdivisions” from development that is taking place and causing “a real nuisance.”
“We do have a policy within our ordinances, however, it boils down to enforcement,” Elkin said.
Josephson said the new county code, which is in effect, addresses public nuisances, but Assistant Stark County State’s Attorney Jim Hope said the public’s complaints should go through the sheriff’s office first.
According to the ordinance, the law pertains to annoyances, such as “noxious weeds, smoke, gases, odors, radio interference, blighted structures or buildings, accumulation of junk, trash, rubbish, automobiles, and dead or diseased trees.”
Elkin asked Hope how best to enforce the ordinance.
“People would have to contact the sheriff’s office and they would have to do an investigation, and then consult back with (the Stark County State’s Attorney Office),” Hope said. “The Legislature changed the law and made it so you can issue a ticket for any offense, but then we have to go through a review process, but (law enforcement) could issue a ticket on the spot.”
Ultimately, though, Hope said the State’s Attorney Office would have to determine how good of a case it was to prosecute and how vigorously it was worth pursuing.
“Cleanup is the issue and if it would be cleaned up in a timely manner,” he said, adding that it can take a couple of weeks between the offender receiving a ticket, coming to court and pleading not guilty, which would push the case into a pretrial hearing. “So if you’re looking for effective clean up, I don’t know how well this works.”
Sheriff Clarence Tuhy questioned how effective everything from enforcement to prosecution of the nuisance ordinance can actually be with this type of complaint.
“How do you do that?” he said. “You’re spending how much time doing an investigation on weeds and who do you prosecute?”
Hope said the commission may want to look at creating an ordinance that deals with civil, instead of criminal, prosecution.
“There is always civil action, but those are notoriously slow,” he said.