Inquirer: 'Junk yard' owner could face fine at December court date

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 13, 2013 

Now pinch hitting for Mike Owen, No. 54 Chuck …

You get the picture. Owen was off last week, but he left a great Inquirer tip.

Ben Greene sent us an email complaining about the junk in the yard next to his mother-in-law's Phenix City home.

"It's worse than any junk yard you have ever seen," Greene warned.

The home in question is at 3016 Third Ave., and it backs up to the Chattahoochee River, just across from the new launch site for the whitewater course. Because of its location on the river, it is a haven for critters like rats and snakes.

And Greene was right. The yard does have a distinct junk yard feel.

There are about a half-dozen cars in various stages of disrepair in the front yard. A while back, the hedges between Green's mother-in-law's home and the defacto junk yard were being cut back.

"They found a boat trailer in there -- a boat trailer," Greene said.

And, if you think the front yard is bad, walk around and take a look at the back.

You name it, it's in there. A basketball goal, a baby Buddha, a john boat, fencing for a dog kennel, toys, a bunch of scrap metal and an old Coca-Cola sign.

There are stacks and stacks of junk, riding lawn mowers and almost anything you could imagine. There was even a proverbial kitchen sink.

But one of the most interesting things stood out in the middle of the backyard. There was a green street sign for Old Macon Road. I am pretty sure Old Macon Road is not running through the backyard.

I didn't know whether to call the Phenix City code inspectors or Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the stars of "American Pickers" on the History Channel. I couldn't get a good number for the picker dudes in Iowa, so I called Phenix City Councilmember Jim Cannon.

It turned out to be a pretty good call.

"I think I turned that one in," Cannon said. "I know I turned three of them in at once."

He did, and the other two on Summerville Road have been cleaned up. One of the reasons that the Third Avenue home is still an issue is because there was some confusion over the address. And after spending 20 minutes trying to find the house last week, I understand.

The house next door is 312 33rd Place, and for some reason in the middle of a residential street it changes from 33rd Place to Third Avenue. It must be a Phenix City thing.

But all of that is cleared up, and the Phenix City code folks are all over it.

Gil Griffith, the chief building officer for Phenix City, is also the man charged with code enforcement. Griffith cited property owner David Self, 53, last Tuesday for "care of premise," and Self faces a Dec. 3 Municipal Court date.

Self could not be reached for comment, but his yard speaks for itself.

"Hopefully, by then we will see substantial improvement to the property," Griffith said.

If not, Self is facing a $382 fine, Griffith said.

Griffith, who doesn't want to see Self fined, said his objective is much the same as the neighbors who have been complaining over the years.

"We want to see it cleaned up," Griffith said. "And I sure hope he gets some help cleaning it up. He may actually have a little gold mine there with all of the scrap metal."

As a matter of fact, some of the junk is more than mere junk.

"He's got some valuable stuff that he could turn into cash," Griffith said. "But he doesn't seem interested in getting cash. He seems interested in keeping his stuff."

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.

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