The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 3, 2013

Spring cleaning in order for properties in township

Trustees will enforce basic Ohio laws

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

BROOKFIELD — Brookfield trustees are hoping residents cooperate more than the weather when it comes to spring and spring cleanups, discussing several problem areas of the township that are not only unsightly but possibly an environmental danger.

Trustee Gary Lees said his “heart was already pounding” when he thought about an area at Broadway and Oak Street, where he thinks the owner is dismantling mobile homes “as a business” and has left the debris scattered throughout the property.

“This is the worst I have ever seen in a residential neighborhood. It’s absolutely out of control. It’s bringing down the value of all the homes in Masury and we don’t need this element in the community,” Lees told his colleagues.

He said the fire department has been called to the home twice for burning complaints and he knows that the Trumbull County Sheriff has been involved as well.

“It’s my understanding that he has until the end of the week to get this cleaned up, but I know nothing is going to happen. We’re are going to have to take him through the court system,” Lees said.

Township Property Maintenance Officer Jim Ewing said people often confuse the township’s lack of zoning laws with a right to do whatever they want with their property.

“But that isn’t necessarily true. You still have littering laws and basic responsibilities outlined under the Ohio Revised Code,” he said. The township hired Ewing in February 2012 and adopted property maintenance ordinances as outlined in the ORC.

Zoning regulation is more about focusing on the appropriate locations to operate a business, he said.

Ewing has created an online form on the township’s website that will allow residents to file official complaints with his office and those in violation can be prosecuted either as a criminal case or in a civil suit. Ewing said he prefers a civil case, because offenders can be forced to clean the property, as well as pay township expenses and a fine. If offenders go through a criminal complaint, a minimal fine is all they face, he said.

“And naturally, what we really want, is for them to clean it up,” he said.

Trustee Phil Schmidt said he would like to see representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency notified about the insulation in the homeowner’s yard. “That has to be some kind of environmental violation. Send the EPA after him,” he said.

Referring to a similar program in Sharon, Trustee Ron Haun encouraged the audience and students in particular, to get behind efforts to clean up the township on May 18. The township, as part of the national Great American Cleanup, will be gathering garbage and doing spring cleaning.

Lees said it is a perfect opportunity for students to earn required community service hours for graduation. Anyone who is interested can contact Lees at the administration building, he said.