Friday the 13th a bad day for litter in the county

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Friday the 13th is looked upon with foreboding by the superstitious. And this week in particular, it could pack a wallop for some county residents.
   According to Chris Schuettler, Carter County Planning administrator, the county's new litter law goes into effect Friday, June 13. Initially, the county will have one part-time enforcement officer who will concentrate on properties along major roadways.
   The Carter County Commission voted 14-9 on April 21 to approve a countywide litter law which applies to property within 50 feet of a county highway. Section 1(b) states that a person is in violation of the litter law if he "negligently places or throws glass, litter or other dangerous substances" on or within 50 feet of a public highway.
   Under the new law, the property owner has 30 days to either clean up or to request a hearing before the Health and Welfare Committee. After 30 days, he forfeits his right to appeal.
   At the April county commission meeting, Schuettler told commissioners, "We don't want to go out here and take people's money away from them, per say; we want compliance."
   Friday, Schuettler said, "The county is still looking for compliance instead of any fines or penalties, and we're here to work with people and to see if there's any way possible we can help them."
   For example, he said, an individual came to his office Thursday to apply for a building permit. During the course of conversation, the person related that they had a couple of junk cars on their property and didn't know what to do with them.
   "We're helping get rid of those," Schuettler said.
   There are numerous places along state roadways where junk cars are creating an eyesore, according to Schuettler. In such cases, cleanup enforcement generally falls to Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). However, there may be times when county and TDOT enforcement actions overlap.
   "We've got a good rapport with Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation ... and we may have to overlap and piggyback with each other to make these areas come into compliance," he said.
   The county will be divided in four, or possibly six zones, with the code enforcement officer starting on main thoroughfares such as Highway 321/67, Highway 91, U.S. Highway 19E, Highway 400, and portions of the county along Interstate 181, according to Schuettler.
   Possible divisions include the Stoney Creek/Siam valley, which will encompass everything north of the Watauga River. A second section would possibly be divided to take in Watauga, Keenburg and Turkey Town, while a third would include U.S. Highway 19E to Gap Creek. A fourth might include everything across Iron Mountain between Hampton and Valley Forge.
   If divided into six sections, Hampton/Fish Springs and Dennis Cove would possibly be the fifth area, while everything southeast of Gap Creek along Highway 19E would be considered the Roan Mountain area, according to Schuettler.
   "That's probably the way I'm going to split it so it will be easier to work," he said.
   If the code enforcement officer finds a problem area, Schuettler said the officer either will contact the property owner on site or by letter. If no cleanup attempt is made within 30 days, the property owner will be sent another letter.
   "If they don't do it by then, we'll send a certified letter," Schuettler said. "If they don't do it by then, then we'll turn it over to the county attorney to handle it."