Last week the Carroll Companies, which owns this publication, received a ticket from the City of Greensboro for some small piles of brush on the 6.6 acre site at the corner of Hobbs Road and Friendly Avenue which has been cleared of buildings and is zoned for mixed use development.

When asked about the ticket Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “The site looks the best it has in years, why would you get a ticket.”

Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that the ordinance enforcement was complaint driven, so someone must have called in a complaint and she was right.  Abuzuaiter had her own list of inexplicable tickets people had told her about. “Inexplicable” unless you consider enforcing the letter of the law regardless of circumstances an explanation.

Despite the fact that the Carroll Companies had spent considerable time and expense cleaning up the site, a couple of piles of brush were left behind and someone called the city to complain.

Of course, instead of sending an inspector out to walk the site and look for small piles of brush, the city could have called the owner to say that it had been reported that some small piles of brush had been left after the last clean up and since they were deemed a danger to the, “health, safety, morals and general welfare” of the people of Greensboro, they needed to be removed.

This is, by the way the same department which inspects housing code violations and the City Council is constantly told that there simply aren’t enough inspectors to inspect the substandard housing in the city.  If there aren’t enough inspectors to inspect dilapidated housing, why are there inspectors available to tramp around on a 6.6 acre site looking for a few limbs stacked on top of each other?

This is also the same department which will enforce the proposed “Good Repair Ordinance” that the City Council plans to pass on Tuesday, July 16.  At the last Greensboro City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson explained to the City Council that the department would work with property owners and would not just be out demanding immediate repairs or demolition, as long as the property owner was making a “good faith effort” to comply. It’s obvious that the Carroll Companies was making a good faith effort to make this site more presentable, but it certainly received no consideration from the city.

Wilson has a history of working to solve problems with equitable solutions, but Wilson is not the one who inspects property for small brush piles and won’t be the one inspecting nonresidential buildings, someone suspects might not be up to code.

Here is the portion of the city ordinance that applies in this case according to the inspector. “The following enumerated and described conditions are found, deemed, and declared to constitute a detriment, danger and hazard to the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the inhabitants of the city and are found deemed and declared to be public nuisances wherever the same may exist…”

“(1) Any conditions which constitutes a breeding ground or harbor for rats, mosquitoes, harmful insects or other pests.”

According to an email from the inspector, “These piles could harbor rodents and other pests.” Later in the email he specifically notes that rats could be in these small piles of limbs.

It is certainly true that a rat looking for a quiet place to hang out could have hidden in the small piles of brush.  But the city storm drains definitely harbor rats as do the city trash cans, and dumpsters.

Regardless, it is difficult to fathom how a small pile of brush “constitutes a detriment, danger and hazard to the health, safety, morals and general welfare” of the people living in Greensboro.

Perhaps someone on the City Council could explain how a small pile of brush is a danger to the morals of the people of Greensboro.