|PROPERTY CLEANED—Pictured above is what the back yard at 147 Richmond Ave. looked like before the city stepped in last week to clean up the property./Photo courtesy Steven Tuttle. William “Bill” Turner operates a junk yard from his residence, but the city says he is violating zoning and rubbish accumulation ordinances. Turner says the city is taking away his way of making a living.
|City cleans up Richmond Avenue property
|By Jamie Vinson
The city of Mt. Sterling won court approval Nov. 10 to clean up a property on Richmond Avenue.
Steven Tuttle, the city’s code enforcement officer, said the city has been battling the issue for seven years. William “Bill” Turner, who lives at 147 Richmond Ave., operates a junk yard from his home.
The problem, Tuttle says, is that portion of Richmond Avenue is zoned R1 (residential). City ordinance prohibits the operation of a business or junk yard or scrap yard in residential areas. Turner would have to have a different zoning for continued operation.
In addition, the city says, Turner is violating “our many rubbish accumulation ordinances.”
“In order to operate a junk yard legally within the city of Mt. Sterling one would have to be within an I-2 Heavy Industry zoned area or be awarded an I-2 Zone through the Planning and Zoning Board. Mr. Turner has been told this, but has never applied for that change,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle said District Court Judge William “Willie” Roberts granted the city permission Nov. 10 to clean up the property. Under state statute (KRS 381.770), the city has the power to “abate a nuisance if the owner will not do it,” Tuttle said.
“That’s why street departments mow yards if the grass gets above 12 inches, etc.,” Tuttle said.
Cleanup began Nov. 12 and ended Nov. 14. The city’s public works dept. assisted with the cleanup as well as Montgomery County Regional Jail inmates.
Tuttle said the city made multiple efforts to work with Turner and get him to clean the property up before stepping in.
“We sent letters and fined him and fined him, but he just hasn’t been willing to move it.”
Over the course of seven years, Turner has been fined more than $20,000.
A first offense receives a $25 fine, followed by a $500 fine for the second offense, $1,500 fine for the third and $2,000 for the fourth and thereafter.
Turner says the city is taking his life away.
“This is how I make my living. I don’t get welfare and food stamps,” he said. “I can’t get a job. I don’t have an education.”
He said he can’t understand why the city can’t just leave him alone as his junk yard helps people.
“If somebody needs something, I help them. Doesn’t matter if you are hungry, need food or thirsty, I will give you water, or even a place to stay.”
He said he trades parts for food and other items, gives parts away and claims the police dept. has stopped by on multiple occasions to buy parts.
Turner also claims he has helped the police dept. and others with flat tires, for instance.
“I’ve given lawn mowers away for free, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m 56 years old. I’ve never been on food stamps or welfare and it looks like the city is trying to make me get on them now.”
Turner previously erected a wooden fence around a big portion of the front of his property to keep people from stealing. He said he has filed multiple complaints about thefts and property damage, people running through his yard, etc., but no one has been prosecuted.
“I just want everybody to be happy. I’ve tried to make the city happy. I’ve tried to make people around me happy. I am the only one who is unhappy.”
About a year ago, Turner claims, a female driver driving with no license came onto his property, hit his trailer and damaged his fence. She reportedly was intoxicated with a child in the car.
The individual was never prosecuted, he says.
“How many other people do you know can drive without a license and not get caught or not get caught for a DUI, but the city wants to do this to me?”
Turner claims while he has been fined, he has received no letters from the city.
“All these people who have called in and complained, I would like to know their names and numbers,” Turner told the Advocate. “This is how the city covers up drama. This is my yard. I should be able to do what I want with it.
“I have asked the city to find me another place, let me rent from them,” he added.
Tuttle says Turner would be able to operate his junk yard in the county, as there are no county zoning laws, but city ordinances simply prevent it.
“Since 2007, the city has repeatedly cited Mr. Turner for multiple zoning offenses and violations of rubbish accumulation. He has been given every opportunity to clean up his yard up himself before any fines would be given and has been given many opportunities to appear before the Code Enforcement Board with full due process of law, to which Mr. Turner has ignored and continued to operate illegally and accumulate scrap/junk to sell on his property,” Tuttle said.
Turner said the haul bill for removal of items from his residence, fuel, labor, etc., will be deducted from whatever money the items taken from his junk yard bring from scrapping.
Whatever remains monetarily from scrapping will be deducted from the fines he owes, with Turner being required to pay the difference.
“What am I going to do for a living,” Turner again stressed. “As long as I can get out of bed, I’m going to work. I’m trying to show young kids that old things are better than new. I’ve been doing this for 35 years.
“I love fooling with things, small engines. I wanted to be a doctor, but my family couldn’t afford it. I took this up. This is what I like doing. I’m not a master, but I do it for other people, not for me.”