A proposed Haywood County ordinance that prohibits various kinds of waste and junk was harshly criticized by speaker after speaker at a public hearing Monday (March 2).
The “Public Nuisance” ordinance prohibits everything from outdoor storage of scrap metal to junk cars to non-maintained swimming pools. Though the ordinance aims to safeguard public health, many county residents attacked it for infringing on their personal property rights.
The ordinance drew more than one reference to communism.
“All of this is like something right out of Karl Marx’s handbook,” said Randy Burris, a Cruso resident. “We have drawn a line today — I will not surrender any more of my rights to any government.”
Russell McLean, a Waynesville resident and the first to speak, called the ordinance “unconstitutional.”
“It completely rips away property rights,” McLean said. “I can’t even have a lawnmower sitting in a shed unless it’s fully enclosed.”
Colin Edwards of Maggie Valley said the ordinance had some good intentions, but ultimately was too restrictive.
“Some things I can understand, like garbage piling up, but you can’t tell somebody what they can and can’t have on their land,” Edwards said.
Maggie Valley resident Burton Edwards said things that appear to be uselessly taking up space can have value to someone else.
“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he proclaimed. “If all you’ve got from your dad or granddad is a tractor that don’t run, that’s your heritage.”
The speakers professed an overwhelming live and let live attitude. That’s the way it’s traditionally been in Haywood County, they said, and if newcomers have a problem with that belief, they can take a hike.
“If people moves in here and they don’t like what they see, why don’t they move back out and leave us alone?” said Pauly Sidler of Canton.
The stiff opposition was a marked change from the official public hearing on the nuisance ordinance held two weeks before. Then, just a handful of speakers voiced messages of support for the ordinance.
Phyllis Brockman, a resident of the eastern end of the county, was one of the speakers. She hoped the ordinance would target the auto salvage yard near her property, where she witnesses mosquitoes and rats breeding in discarded tires.
“I believe that anybody should be able to do with their property what they want, up to the point where it begins to infringe on the rights and properties of their neighbors,” Brockman said.
Brockman’s neighbor, Noreen Langford, said she and others “have been held hostage in the community.”
Brockman asked that the ordinance have “an extraordinarily sharp set of teeth in it.”
Commissioners had few comments at the initial public hearing. Commissioner Skeeter Curtis told the speakers, “this ordinance is considerably stronger than we have now, and I think it will solve a lot of problems” near their properties.
Commissioners shy away
At the public hearing on Monday, however, Curtis said he wouldn’t support the ordinance.
“The way the draft is written now, there’s no way I could vote for it,” he said.
The rest of the board agreed with Curtis.
“I don’t think any of us support it in its present draft,” said Commissioner Bill Upton.
Though many in the audience called for the county to drop the ordinance altogether, commissioners didn’t promise to do so. Instead, the board implored residents to attend the next planning board meeting to vent their concerns. That meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 23 in Haywood County Annex II.