Mount Holly narrows junked vehicle restrictions

by Alan Hodge

After much study and consideration, the Mount Holly City Council decided to make a number of key changes to a municipal ordinance that restricts the type of junked and abandoned vehicles residents can keep in their yards.

Council member Bennie Cunningham, the only member of the council to vote against the changes, told fellow members that he hadn’t been given enough time to read the changes in print.

“I only got this information on Friday,” he said.

Before the final vote, Cunningham attempted to table the issue. Perry Toomey, Carol Breyare and Cunningham voted to revisit the issue later, while David Moore, Jim Hope, and Jerry Bishop cast votes to proceed. Mayor Brian Hough broke the tie by voting in favor of moving forward.

“We’ve had over two weeks for questions and discussion on this issue,” he said.

According to Planning Director Greg Beal, complaints from citizens concerning issues such as neighbors using blue tarps as car covers, boats filled with water and mosquitoes and junk cars in yards had prompted his office to look into making revisions to the ordinance as far back as the winter of 2008-2009.

“Responding to the complaints, we canvassed neighborhoods and drew up a list of fifty violators,” Beal said. “Some people had as many as 10 junk cars.”

The new regulations define what constitutes an acceptable car cover, and blue tarps are out. The ordinance now requires the cover or tarp to be a neutral color such as dark green, brown, tan or a similar earth tone hue.

Another change in the ordinance defines a boat as a motor vehicle. Changes to the definition of a junked motor vehicle are now aligned with the one that’s part of the General Statutes of North Carolina. Vehicles coming under this classification are those without a current license plate and that are either partially dismantled or wrecked, cannot be self-propelled or moved in the manner it was originally intended, are more than five years old and appear to be worth less than $500.

However, one junked vehicle can be located in the owner’s backyard provided it is concealed from public view and covered.

Another change will have the city sending notices of intent to tow a junked vehicle to the registered owner or person on the property where it is located by first class mail, rather than certified mail, as was done before. However, that courtesy can be omitted under certain circumstances, such as the vehicle being in a place that blocks traffic or is damaging surrounding property

If a junked vehicle is towed by the city, the owner has 20 days from the time the notice was mailed to file a written request with the Gaston County magistrate for a hearing to determine if probable cause existed for its removal. If the magistrate finds that the city towed the vehicle in error, then the city has to give the vehicle back and pay all charges associated with its removal.

Another change in the junked, abandoned, or nuisance vehicle ordinance provides that business owners cannot use an idle vehicle for storage and claim that the vehicle is needed to operate their business.

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