With just a couple of weeks remaining in winter, a McMinn County community is already telling its residents to get started with spring cleaning.
The City of Niota approved a new ordinance to get rid of junk vehicles that seem permanently parked on private property in plain sight. The move comes after complaints from citizens about neighbors with junky yards. It also coincides with an overall beautification effort in the small city that has spruced up its historical landmarks.
"We'd like for people to come and visit. We have the oldest standing depot in the state of Tennessee. We are also on the Civil War Trail," said Lois Preece, mayor of Niota. "When we're trying to invite tourism, we need to have a neat city for them."
Niota just passed the new junk vehicle ordinance that allows the city to cite residents who create junky eyesores.
"Vehicles that are kind of run down, they may have plants and things growing out of them, and they're never going to run. They're just parked there," said Preece.
The mayor says the city is not trying to be mean or overly regulate everything that is in someone's yard. However, the city wanted to adopt regulations similar to other cities that outline how to respond to neighborhood complaints regarding junk. An example of a property receiving complaints sits close to downtown and has a front yard filled with various junk, a rusty pontoon boat, and a broken down trailer.
"It is just disheartening for people who try to take care of their property and their neighbors do not. It can also be discouraging for people who may be interested in real estate here," said Preece.
Now private property owners have to get rid of junk cars, boats, tractors, and other vehicles or move them out of sight into an enclosed garage.
City councilman Richard Rutledge voted against the ordinance, but was in the minority.
"When your neighbor gets ruling your life is when there gets to be a problem," said Rutledge. "As an American, I'm a firm believer you have the right to do as you feel and see. I believe if you are on private property in a little old town, you should be able to do what you want with your yard. If you want everything to be regulated, you can live in a subdivision or some place with a homeowners' association. I'd like to see everything picture perfect and pristine. It would be great. But none of us are perfect and none of us live perfect. "
Those who do not get rid of the junky imperfections will be warned at first and then face fines of $50 plus court costs for each violation.