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Without Owner’s Consent, Code Enforcement Cleans Up a Property at Taxpayers’ Expense

| June 20, 2013

Police and city officials did not give Lynore Camp a choice: she had to make way for city workers to clean up her yard. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Police and city officials did not give Lynore Camp a choice: she had to make way for city workers to clean up her yard. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

In Brief: It was a costly, day-long project involving personnel from four city departments, including police, on a house already facing a $50,000 lien, but officials defended forcibly cleaning up the property on Deen Road at taxpayers’ expense, as the owner stood by, saying it was a matter of maintaining property values. The case shows the extent–and limits–of code enforcement’s growing authority.

On a May morning three weeks ago, Lynor Camp started her day with an unpleasant surprise. A small battalion of city officials, cops and workmen had gathered on her property on Deen Road on Bunnell, and soon set to work cleaning it up. City officials say they asked Camp for permission. Camp says they didn’t.

Either way, she was told that that’s what would take place: Her front and back yards were a mess, with massive amounts of cans, debris and some trash, and the city, for the second time in a year, would clean it up. At the city’s—that is, at taxpayers’—expense, even though Camp is technically billed for the work, and has been before: there’s a $50,000 lien on her property because of past-due fines. She’s not about to pay.

Camp’s case, rare though it is, illustrates to what extent a city can exercise its authority on private property, without a property owner’s consent. But it also illustrates the limits of that authority, even when the property owner does not change her ways, and does not pay fines imposed by the city. In essence, Camp has decided to live as she will, collecting aluminum cans and other such items and piling them up in her yard. The city has twice decided to take it upon itself to clean up the property and levy fines, but the end result is a costly standoff that doesn’t change matters much: the city has expended energy, money and resources on the clean-ups, but Camp isn’t changing her ways.

Neighbors have been of differing minds. Some have assumed, wrongly, that the city was doing Camp a favor by cleaning up her property. Some thought, also wrongly, that she was shown favoritism because she works for City Commissioner John Rogers, the wrecker. She doesn’t: she is a dispatcher for a competitor of Roger’s, confusingly called Roger’s Towing. Some are supportive of Camp. (Her neighbor across the street, driving out during the clean-up, stopped to talk with her and ask if she was all right, commiserating about the day’s business.)

And some are supportive of the city’s initiative, welcoming it because of hygiene or matters of property values: one neighbor spoke of an excess of flies that have infested her place, possibly because of the mounds of aluminum cans piled up on Camp’s property, and of the damage to property values that an unsightly property can cause in a neighborhood.

“It’s not fair,” says next-door neighbor Betty Rippey, whose own property, ironically, is the last winner of Bunnell’s Beautification Committee award. Friends visit only to look across the yard and see the trash. “You couldn’t do that in Palm Coast. I’m sure you couldn’t do that in Flagler Beach.” Actually, Palm Coast’s code enforcement, while strict and rigorously enforced, does not go as far as Bunnell’s: Palm Coast has the authority to “abate” what it defines as nuisances on vacant properties, but it does not have the authority to go onto an occupied property and clean it up for the owner. Bunnell gave itself that authority a little over a year ago through a specific ordinance, which was invoked the morning of the cleanup at 601 Deen Road.

“We were ordered to do nuisance abatement of the trash on this property, and we were out here executing those instructions,” Mick Cuthbertson, Bunnell’s community development director, said at the time. “We can do the clean-up and lien the property owner for the cost of the cleran-up.” The original lien was “in excess of $50,000” Cuthbertson said. That was for issues dating back more than a year. At the time, Cuthbertson said, “we asked her if we could and she allowed us to come in and clean up the front.” That was meant to encourage Camp to clean up the rest of the property herself. “Unfortunately, that did not take place.”

Camp’s is the third property to be forcibly cleaned up by the city since the nuisance ordinance went into effect.

“Is it likely that we’ll get paid that lien? I have to say probably not, but we have a responsibility to taxpayers and a responsibility to homeowners in this neighborhood,” Cuthbertson said. “It’s a difficult assignment, but it’s been ordered by our board,” that is, the city’s code enforcement board, “it’s supported by our own city commission, and there is a value to it regardless of whether we get paid back on our lien.”

The clean-up took up most of the day. Besides Cuthbertson, it involved police officers, men from the city’s Public Works Department, and men from the Solid Waste Department, along with a large dump truck, a grapple truck, a bobcat and several smaller gator trucks. Police was on the property to ensure that the property owner was complying with the order.

The house itself—a two-level house built either in 1954 or in 1960, with a listed square footage of 2,500 acres on the Flagler County Property Appraiser’s site—has never been entered by authorities: they may not, absent an order from the health department. State and county health departments were asked about the sanitary conditions of the house. But the departments said conditions do not cross the threshold that would allow entering the house.

Camp, who bought the house in 1976, doesn’t dispute that she’s a collector of cans. She’s been doing it since 1985. But she doesn’t consider her home a nuisance. If you imagine her to fit the stereotypical image of a retiring and angry hoarder, you’d be disappointed. She’s smart, educated, well-spoken and wryly funny. But she doesn’t much care for judgments.

“I’m not paying them to do in my yard what I do anyway. I’m not stupid. I’ve been working on the house,” she said. She blames one neighbor for being after her. “I was told originally many years ago, put up a fence and what’s behind the fence is your business. I put up a fence. Well then last year when she was on her high horse and they came and they said oh, well, we’ve got a complaint and we have to act on it. I said, can you see anything from the road? No. But that doesn’t matter. So they took down the fence, cut down trees, got their little Bobcat and took all my cans.” The fence was never replaced. “Now, this year, we’re doing it again.”

She’s not concerned about the lien on her property. “I’ll just live here, and when I die, you know.” She throws up her hands. “But at that point will I really care? I mean, that sounds bizarre, but I’m not really attached to things.” She’s current with her taxes. She pays on a home-improvement loan, she says. But she won’t be told what to do in what she describes as “a never-ending battle.”

Camp says she’s being made an example of. But she’s not changing her ways. She had planned a “gift” to the city for its bicentennial, adding stucco to the house. Asked if she was going to continue that project, she said: “I don’t know. I’m really to the point where I’m so disgusted right now, I really don’t know.”

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17 Responses for “Without Owner’s Consent, Code Enforcement Cleans Up a Property at Taxpayers’ Expense”

  1. JL in PC says:

    It’s sad that they have to do that. Come on lady, clean up your yard! I’m glad she’s not my neighbor. That’s a big reason I bought a house in Palm Coast, for their restrictions. I don’t want to have a junk yard next door to me. It’s disgusting that a person would allow your yard to get that bad. I can’t imagine what filth she must live in inside.

    I applaud Bunnell for doing this. Goodness, her place was so bad she has flies everywhere?
    Lady, if you don’t like it that they come and clean up your yard, then do the job yourself. I feel for the people that live next to you. You’re hurting their property values.

    How about taking some pride in your home. I don’t care how “well spoken or funny” you are. If you want to live in a heap of junk, you should’ve bought a place out in the middle of nowhere, maybe near Palatka. There’s lots of trees and you could be far from any neighbors that would be stuck looking at your junk.

  2. A.S.F. says:

    Hoarders rarely admit to themselves, let alone anyone else, that they have a problem. They can be quite vociferous in defending their right to live as they choose. Unfortunately, that can sometimes descend into a level that’s unsafe for themselves and those around them. It can be tricky to determine where to draw the line between respecting someone’s privacy and free will and protecting the rights of others who may be negatively impacted by those choices.I hope neighbors and friends will step up to the plate to help find that proper balance, before matters get totally out of control.

  3. there are three sides to every story says:

    Hitler would be proud!

  4. Art Vaderlay says:

    Since when do local laws supersede the US Constitution

  5. r&r says:

    That’s good. There are plenty of people looking to do this sort of thing and it may have been more reasonable..

  6. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    Sad story, one of the sweetest people I ever met in my life.

  7. Pete says:

    How do you balance individual homeowners rights and homeowners property values?

    • Mr mondex says:

      The place is a rat infested pig pen always has the people who live there are hoarders no ifs ands or buts so the city ought to have cleaned it up years ago what took so long!????some like living in squaller!! These owners should be held accountable for the costs!!good job city of BUNNELL ,go clean up the other pig pens in the city!!, kudos!!!!!!

  8. Ogreagain says:

    I drive that house every other day or so to visit my dad. Even the crack house just east of this house is in better shape. I see this lady trash picking all over flagler in her red truck. driving around with paper and trash flying out of it.

    By the way palm coast has it’s own version of this dump. Take a look at the house on zammer ct.

  9. Magicone says:

    At least the code enforcement of Bunnell acts when a complaint is filed. The code enforcement department in Palm Coast is just the opposite. They will sit parked in their air conditioned trucks and write a violation for a lawn that is overgrown; (only if it is reported to them). There could be 6 more homes on the same street, with the grass twice as high but the code enforcement officers will just drive by because no one reported it to the city . There are commercial vehicles that are parking at their residences EVERY NIGHT and All WEEKEND also. Just because a commercial vehicle doesn’t have more than the allowed 3 square feet of advertising. Does not make it legal. The code states that any vehicle with added ladder racks, (with or without ladders) are against the city code. There are Arctic Breeze, Total Air Conditioning, Bright House, Dish network, Direct T.V. several electric companies, several plumbing, Glass companies, Painting companies and several other commercial company vehicles parked in our city illegally every night. But code enforcement does not have an officer that works at night. They have one that they pay every night, but he is not out there on the street enforcing the city code on commercial vehicles.. Barbara Grossman is in charge of this Department, and she has over a dozen code enforcement officers that are not doing their jobs. No wonder no one wants to move to Palm Coast, every neighborhood looks like a warehouse district, as well as a red light district.. Maybe what Palm Coast needs is a code enforcement leader that will enforce the laws she is overpaid to enforce !!!

  10. confidential says:

    City done right ! Hope we collect from the liens when house will be foreclosed for owed to city lien debt.
    This lady has no considerations for her community and or neighbors that have to endure her eyesores. I have no doubt she may be very sweet…but anyway something is wrong with that picture.

  11. hitekrednek says:

    say what you will—but if you google earth her adress-you can see the mess from outer space…..whats that tell you?

    sorry lady but you cant live in filth like that

  12. elaygee says:

    When you buy property in any jurisdiction, you have agreed to abide by the laws and regulations of that jurisdiction.

    If enough people in that entity think the rules and regulations are not good, they can vote to change them. Otherwise, you must live with them. Same as all other laws like speed limits, assault, financial crimes, etc. If the laws are not “constituional”, you can take them to court and get a ruling.

    Not perfect but about as far from “Hilterism” as you can get. When the Nazis wanted my grandfathers property, they simply rounded up his family and killed them all and took their property, gold teeth included.

  13. john says:

    I have known Lynore for many years. What bothers me about this story is all the facts are not being told. First the house next store to hers is vacant which to me means she has no next store neighbor.The lady that is complaining lives at least 100 feet away from lynores property and unless she has a tree house her property is not visible from her house. As far as the fly problem i guess everyone must have someone on their street with cans because i have been in florida many years and there has always been a fly problem. What is not being told about Lynore having cans on her property is she saves the pop tops for the Ronald McDonald houses. I know this to be a fact because i have dropped them off for her myself when she was too busy to do it herself. What not being told is this lady works numerous jobs as well as caring for many people that were dying over the years. It seems that people would have something better to do with their time than bitching about someone who does not bother a soul and gives freely of herself.

    • A.S.F. says:

      John, perhaps you can help your friend, Lynore, find some way to continue her good works in a more orderly and responsible manner. There are ways to collect cans without having them piled up all over the back yard and attracting flies. If your friend is this famous for the chaos her collecting creates, so much so that neighbors have to call in their concerns to the authorities about what appears to be mounds of trash that take a team to clean up, I doubt the situation is as harmless as you describe it (or would prefer to believe.) If friends, family and neighbors really care about your friend, they will step up to the plate and do more to help her keep the problem in hand. If she denies there is a problem and refuses assistance from people who care about her and it continues to get worse, then the authorities will have to step in. I hope your friend gets the support she needs to solve her problem, including professional help, if need be. This kind of thing can become a serious health concern.

  14. tulip says:

    Bunnell should keep cleaning up her place and adding to lien on her house. By the time she or her heirs want to sell the house, most of the money will go to pay off the lein. What right does a person have to have a nasty yard with filth and all that right out there for everyone to see and also pull down the property values and niceness of a neighborhood? People that take care of their property don’t deserve and shouldn’t be forced to live with that. Everybody talks about people”s rights, well it is the right of the average person not to have to live with some other person’s filth. This is not a case of someone having an ugly lawn ornament, this is a case of someone having a dumping ground of unhealthy, rat encouraging crap.

    This is why code enforcement is good and necessary and I’m glad I live in a place where it exists.

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