BATH TOWNSHIP — A contingency of township residents appeared before Bath Township Trustees during the April 19 township meeting to voice their complaints about negligent properties in their neighborhood.
Approximately a dozen residents, who live in Tanner Plat, claimed that the unkempt properties are unsightly and only drag down their property values.
“There are cars, pallets and junk in the front yards. That is why I am here,” said Bonnie Whitescar, who lives on Beaconview Drive.
Whitescar and her neighbors pointed out numerous issues with one property located on Adams Road that they described as a major eyesore. Currently, the house on the property is vacant, and the landowner rarely visits the residence. However, the residents said he continues to dump and store a large amount of junk on the property.
“I can’t begin to explain the amount of trash that has accumulated on the property,” said a Beaconview Drive resident Russell Mitchell.
Whitescar also noted that a load of garbage was removed from the property, but a great deal of junk still remains. The township resident said she had attempted to contact the owner about the nuisance property, but her efforts proved unsuccessful.
“It has been very difficult for me to get in contact with the owner because the property is owned by a business,” Whitescar said.
One resident expressed his concerns about the potential health issues that could arise with rodents and other animals living among the garbage at the Adams Road location.
“We’re also concerned about the hazards that could be around there,” Whitescar added.
Bath Township Trustee Steve Ross told the concerned residents that Township Zoning Inspector Jim Miller had contacted and spoken to the owner of the Adams Road property twice. Miller also discussed the issue with the residents at the meeting and stated that he had visited the property several times. During those visits, he noted a number of violations.
“I spoke to the individual about the junk, and I understood he had cleaned it up at that time. The man told me he was rehabbing the house for him to live in,” Miller said. “He said the junk that was piled in the yard were items he cleaned out of the house.”
However, the consensus among the residents attending the meeting was that the house was empty when purchased. In addition, some residents had witnessed the man hauling rubbish, apparently from another location, and dumping it at the Adams Road property.
“I was given a telephone number, but I don’t have an address to serve papers. It is a lengthy process, and we would have to go through the prosecutor’s office,” Miller explained.
Miller said he would revisit the residence and pursue the matter once again.
The residents also had issues with a number of unkempt properties in their neighborhood. Whitescar said one home on Tanner Drive had several cars parked in front of the residence and numerous pallets stacked and used as fencing to contain the owner’s dogs.
“It really looks bad,” said Whitescar. “I am really annoyed at the parking lot.”
Whitescar pointed out that two other residents in the neighborhood also had numerous vehicles, including inoperative vehicles and some with expired or no licenses, parked in and around their front yards.
Denise Verrette, a Beaconview Drive resident, also expressed her frustration with the amount of parked vehicles in front yards throughout the neighborhood.
Other residents of Tanner Plat complained about a property with tall grass, weeds and overgrown bushes, and Kerry Reeser, who lives on Beaconview Drive, complained about neighbors shooting guns near his property.
Trustee Ross said the system in place has worked in the past. However, the guidelines the township must follow falls under the terms of the Ohio Revised Code, which give township officials limited authority. The trustees have to give notice to the landowners as well.
“We trustees are creatures of the Ohio Revised Code,” Ross said. “We do not have a lot of teeth.”
Miller noted that although the Ohio Revised Code does not allow the township to force people to mow, the township could force them to cleanout noxious weeds.
Township Trustee Tom Pitstick told the residents that a property owner could be taken to court, but he or she does not have to comply. Miller concurred with Pitstick and explained that a judge can fine a property owner of a negligent property but cannot force the individual to clean up the property.
“It is how the judge interprets the situation which determines what he or she does,” said Miller. “I don’t know if there is a good answer to the problem.”
Ross told the residents that legally forming a homeowners association would be an effective means to maintain community standards and protect property values and the best vehicle they would have dealing with the ongoing problems.
Gary Megson, who also lives on Beaconview Drive, told the township trustees he enjoyed living in the township where, as a homeowner, he had more freedom. In addition, his personal experience with a homeowners association was less than desirable. Yet, the homeowners with overgrown, unkempt yards and those with junk vehicles parked in every direction were “pushing the limits.”
Megson said he was considering approaching the homeowners in a neighborly way.
“We will have to keep Jim (Miller) focused on this issue,” Pitstick said. “Offense is the best defense.”
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.