Judge orders man to remove unused car from driveway
John Delacey never thought he'd find himself in court for leaving an unused car parked in his driveway.
But the 46-year-old found out the hard way that if your car needs fixing and is drawing the neighbours' attention, that's exactly what can happen.
Delacey was in provincial court in St. John's Thursday, charged with breaching section 5.2.3 of the city bylaw which forbids residents from keeping a "discarded, dismantled, inoperative, unused or abandoned vehicle" on residential property.
His 1997 blue Ford Taurus has been in the driveway of his Fahey Street house, where his daughter lives, since last summer.
Delacey lives just down the road and gave the car to his daughter, but because she's a single mother, she hasn't been able to afford the repairs.
He said the car works fine - it just needs brake work and a new tire, and to be licensed. He's angry that the city can step in and make demands about his property.
"It's not right," Delacey told The Telegram outside court.
"It's my property and I'm paying property taxes. I should be allowed to have something like a car in my driveway, for God's sake.
"The car is not an eyesore and is not hurting anybody. And I've got the doors locked, so the youngsters can't get in."
But the city's lawyer, Linda Bishop, said neighbours have complained several times about the 13-year-old idle car.
The city issued Delacey a notice and a $100 fine in July, but when the car was still not removed, they took the matter to court to get a compliance order from a judge.
"I don't understand why I'm not allowed to park my own vehicle in my driveway," Delacey told Judge Robert Hyslop.
The judge let him away with a $50 fine and gave him 30 days to remove the vehicle from his driveway.
"I guess I'll have to get it towed," Delacey said when he walked out of court, "but I just feel I'm being picked on."
Delacey's case was one of about 10 called in court Thursday for alleged breaches of city regulations.
Those breaches include everything from failing to mow a lawn to building on a watershed and failing to have fire-rated doors in apartment units.
Ivan Burry, for example, was fined $225 for failing to cut his grass, paint his shed and fix his patio.
While that may seem harsh, Dave Blackmore, the City of St. John's director of building and property, said it's important that people not neglect their properties.
Car wrecks and debris on property can not only be hazardous, but can affect the property values of surrounding homes, he said.
"The city expects all home owners to have their property maintained and in clean condition," said Blackmore, whose department is in charge of property enforcement, including construction, permitting, inspections and building maintenance.
"When you're buying a property in a neighbourhood, you're part of that community as a whole. There are certain expectations your community would have, in terms of having your property maintained in a certain condition."
Blackmore said the city receives tens of thousands of complaints a year - from debris and garbage to sanitary matters. As a result, the city completed 7,500 property inspections last year.
Blackmore said the city will first issue a notice to give the property owner the opportunity to remedy the situation. If that request is not complied with, the city will issue a ticket.
If the owner still doesn't comply, the city then takes legal action.
"We're quite reasonable and like to work with the owners," Blackmore said.
"When it gets to point where it goes to court, it's usually because we're at odds over a period of time. … Our goal is to get the problem solved. By no means is it to seek a fine."
In Delacey's situation, Blackmore said there was more than an idle car involved.
He said Delacey's driveway and lawn were often strewn with old tires and car parts.
"If it was just a matter of the car needing a licence or small repair, we wouldn't have taken any further action. It was the continued non-compliance on his part," Blackmore said.
"By no means, did we take action that was unwarranted."