It happens in just about every city I've ever lived in, large or small. On an otherwise nice street, at least one property owner doesn't care if his or her place looks like a pigsty.
The rest of the people who are taking care of their properties are the ones who suffer. They follow the rules, only to see the ones who don't getting away without any consequences.
Glen Rose seems to have more than its share of trashy properties inside the city limits. Maybe it feels that way because the geographic area is quite small.
And perhaps in the past that didn't matter so much. But people who are moving here to escape city crime and urban blight don't like to see rusting farm implements, long-dead trucks and piles of junk strewn around yards or stacked under carports. Not to mention yards grown over with weeds and structures that are falling down.
Many old-timers don't like to see their town trashed, either, by those who don't care or don't want to comply with city ordinances.
Last week a concerned citizen and I took a drive around Glen Rose. This citizen, who prefers to remain anonymous, has been locking horns with some neighbors over the junk and trash stacked up at their house. The citizen has even seen rats come out of the neighbor's home. It's frustrating, to say the least, because this citizen has put a lot of time and money into upgrading his own property.
Nuisances and eyesores
The City of Glen Rose has several ordinances designed to safeguard health and public welfare.
Ordinance 94 covers wrecked, junked or abandoned property. The ordinance reads in part: "It shall be unlawful for any person to cause or maintain such a public nuisance by wrecking, dismantling, partially dismantling, rendering inoperable, abandoning or discarding any junked vehicle on the real property of another or to suffer, permit or allow any junked vehicle to be parked, left or maintained on his or her own real property."
Ordinance 151 covers "dangerous buildings." These are defined as structures that may "endanger the life, limb, health, morals, property, safety or welfare of the general public or their occupants and may be required to be repaired, vacated, demolished, removed or secured."
When driving around with the citizen and on my own, I've been appalled at the condition of some properties. Do these folks know about the city ordinances? Do they care? They obviously don't care about those who have to live next to these properties and see their own property values hurt by the condition of the slummy building next door or across the street.
Even worse, some of these properties are within walking distance of the square.
Like it or not, Glen Rose has an image to uphold because of its status as a tourist town. While some may find goats roaming in yards charming (I don't, but Glen Rose doesn't have an ordinance against them), piles of trash and stacks of boxes outside buildings, 2-foot-tall-high grass and weeds and junked cars are not.
These scenes detract from the area's natural beauty and don't give our visitors a very good impression, nor are they a very good reflection on the city government that is charged with enforcing city ordinances.
In all fairness to the city, though, there's a lengthy legal process involved with issuing someone a citation and forcing someone to comply with an ordinance.
In the case of junked vehicles, for example, a "declaration of nuisance" must be issued, then a notice to abate on private property, then a trial, then a removal of junked vehicle with permission or from unoccupied premises by order, then a notice to the State Highway Department requesting it cancel the certificate of title to the vehicle.
In the instance of a dangerous building, the process is to declare a structure substandard, a public hearing for abatement, an order by the city council, a notice of order of the city council, then repair, removal or demolition by the city. Then the city may take steps to recover its costs, civil penalties may be authorized and then a fine issued.
So when someone violates these city ordinances, it's not just a matter of issuing a citation and making sure violators comply. In these cases, the law gives the violators so much time that they likely know that they can get away with their behavior. These two ordinances, by the way, total 21 pages of rules and regulations.
Squalor in the grass
During my driving survey, I saw so many non-compliant properties and some that are just downright dangerous that I don't have much sympathy for most of the violators.
For example, a building between Vine and Vernon streets has a door that's rotting and standing open to reveal a refrigerator turned against the wall. In another room, however, a refrigerator with its doors open is visible.
It's against the law in Texas to have a refrigerator or freezer on your property that isn't being used without removing the doors. That's so that children can't crawl in and suffocate. I'm assuming that since this refrigerator is standing with the doors open, it's not being used. You can see this from the open door, by the way. If I found it, I'm sure kids could, too.
Recently, the tall grass was mowed in front of this structure and two others on the lot. But neighbors tell me that they have seen feral cats, possums and other animals coming and going from the structure with the open door. It's a health and safety hazard, to say the least.
And why are the structures on the Rivercrest property allowed to deteriorate? A tree has even crashed through one. "No Trespassing" signs have been erected, but what's to keep kids out of these structures that are falling down?
I've also spotted vacant structures with broken windows, exposed rusty sharp metal and other hazards.
I'm not going to name any names - yet. To spur them along, the Reporter is printing some of the photos I took on page A11. No names, no addresses, just pictures. I call them the "Shame of Glen Rose."
Shame on those who don't respect their neighbors, their town or themselves enough to clean up their acts and comply with the law. And shame on us if we let them get away with it.
Unfortunately, though, the law wraps so much red tape around these properties that we're likely to keep seeing the eyesores for quite a while longer.