Board of Supervisors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Supervisors flirting with new crackdown on ‘junk’

By Billy Davis

The board attorney for Panola County supervisors advised them Monday to proceed slowly, and plan carefully, if they clamp down on junky property in unincorporated Panola County.

Board attorney Bill McKenzie agreed supervisors have legal precedence to require public hearings for properties that are declared an unsanitary menace to the neighborhood.

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“But you need to think through the deal,” he advised. “Whatever you start, you have to finish.”

Discussion of implementing a junk ordinance gobbled up only six minutes of the board meeting, but the impact could be huge: previous supervisors have run from the topic, aware of its controversy in rural areas.

In fact, the topic has been squashed repeatedly since at least 2005, when the then-Board of Supervisors turned down an ordinance that would have declared appliances, trash and debris an “unauthorized dump.”

Supervisors eventually heard complaints about junk cars, too, when an Old Panola Road resident complained that seven non-running cars and trucks were an eyesore in the neighborhood.

The county board told the resident they were not allowed to act, though board attorney Bill McKenzie reminded them a junk car ordinance had been in place for years. Supervisors eventually agreed to a lenient policy that allowed up to seven non-working automobiles on private property — the “seven-car rule.”

The previous Board of Supervisors moved closer to a crackdown in 2010, when a dilapidated mobile home was hauled to a lot on Wells Street Extended in Courtland. Supervisors heard an outcry from nearby residents and new rules for transporting and setting up mobile homes were implemented months later.

Michael Purdy, who broached the topic Monday, told The Panolian the county’s land use office has received “numerous complaints” of abandoned and burnt-out mobile homes. Some supervisors have also fielded similar complaints, Purdy said.

Purdy handed out copies of a state statute, 19-5-105, to supervisors. The clean-up law permits a board of supervisors to hold hearings to determine if property is a “menace to public health and safety of the community.” The property owner must be given three weeks’ notice before the hearing is held.  

A cleanup of the property by the county can be assessed to the owner’s taxes according to the statute.  

“Do we need to study this or approve it?” Board President Kelly Morris asked McKenzie.

“Y’all need to think about this,” McKenzie replied. “If Michael goes to someone with this authority, then you know who they call next.”

The county board voted 5-0 to take the matter under advisement to study it further.