When you drive around the country one could almost begin to wonder if accumulated junk was today’s equivalent of striking gold. Similarly, one would think that missing siding or incomplete buildings were a fashion statement. As I see these eyesores, I keep wondering whatever happened to pride of place or ownership? Having just driven across large parts of Ontario and Quebec, our friends in Canada definitely do NOT have this problem anywhere near the scale as seen here in the United States.
So, since when does a pile of pallets in the yard constitute neighborliness? Exactly how many inoperable cars in your yard does it take to become a parking lot or junk yard? I have yet to see a home in Good Housekeeping or other similar home design magazines that tout exposed insulation as the newest hot architectural trend. Additionally, I have yet to see an episode of HGTV that promotes yard clutter and accumulated debris as a way of increasing curbside appeal.
Frankly, while there may be a few rational reasons out there, I think many property owners have simply become plain lazy, while others use private property rights as an excuse to be bad neighbors. When these poor decisions start impacting their neighbor’s property values or start blighting the overall community, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Aside from imposing stricter zoning ordinances and other codes to address such issues, one has to wonder if there are more subtle actions that can be taken to reduce blight. A couple of ideas to chew on (additional suggestions are welcome):
- Require a performance guarantee with building permits. If the work is not completed in a timely manner, then the funds are used by the community to finish the project.
- Enforce codes already on the books in a diligent manner.
- When approving subdivisions or condos, require that the covenants/bylaws include design and architectural review provisions, as well as provision to assure the home/condo owners association remains intact and does not disband.
- Explore options with local nonprofits for providing home care and maintenance projects.
- Offer free junk amnesty programs once a year that allows accumulated junk to be brought to a central collection or disposal site – no questions asked.
- Work with area trash/garbage collectors to develop programs that encourage removing trash, junk, or debris from sites.
- Offer yard waste pick-up throughout much of the year to it does not accumulate in yards.
- Promote pride of place in newsletters, on websites, and at public meetings/forums.
- Consider working with a local newspaper to publish “eyesores” and “eye candy” photo as a method of shaming property owners into action and praising those who keep their property well maintained. Here is a weblink to Lansing City Pulse which has been doing this weekly for years.