Editorial: Sullivan should step up junk car rules enforcement

Editorial Board • Jul 20, 2018 at 3:10 PM

Kingsport has zero tolerance for junk cars. But does Sullivan County?

The city has a history of forbidding junk vehicles and recently clarified its ordinance. If a vehicle meets any of the following, it’s illegal in the city: lacks major or essential mechanical or body parts; is junked or partially disassembled; has been burned or flooded throughout; cannot be driven legally; is incapable of moving under its own power; is not registered under state law; has one or more tires missing or not fully inflated; has more than one broken window; is economically impracticable to restore; has not moved under its own power in 15 days.

Basically, if a vehicle cannot be legally driven on the street, it’s in violation and subject to a $50 daily fine.

Sullivan County also has a junk vehicle ordinance. It states that the temporary or permanent outside storage of inoperable vehicles of any kind, whether in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited within all residential and planned districts. “Any vehicles that are being serviced, repaired or restored shall take place within a completely enclosed permissible structure located on the property of the owner or within an appropriate commercial district offering such services.”

But is it enforced? We know of one property in a residential area where more than 100 junk vehicles have for years been rusting away in a backyard. Licensed auto junkyards are exempt from the ordinance, but does the county allow junkyards in residential areas?

The city says that one junk car is too many within the city limits. “What we see a lot of is cars not being used and remaining on properties, people scrapping or stripping them down or parts all over the place,” says the city’s code enforcement official, Melanie Adkins.

She said she believes the position of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is that such vehicles are not serving a legitimate purpose, and that the reason for some recent minor changes to the ordinance was because it was at times confusing for some residents.

“They would go and see that five or more inoperable vehicles constitutes a junkyard and say, ‘I don’t have five, so I’m good.’ ”

Not true, she said. If you have even one inoperable vehicle on your property, then you’re in violation of city code. You can have an inoperable vehicle on your property, but it must be stored inside a building or garage and not be visible from the street or any other property. Even if someone can see it in your backyard from a second-story window, then that’s still a violation, Adkins said.

Enforcement should be just as strong in the county.

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