Robertsdale resident wants city to intervene in neighbor’s yard cleanup


ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — A Robertsdale resident is calling on city officials to take action to clean up his neighbor’s yard, which he says is a violation of the city’s ordinance.

John Liptak, a resident of Hughen Street, addressed the Robertsdale City Council at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 3 with a slide presentation of photos he says show violations of city ordinance 9-36, “Litter on private property – Duty of owner.”

The ordinance, which was included in the agenda packed for the Aug. 3 meeting, states that “It shall be unlawful for the owner or person in charge or control of building, lot or other premises within the city to fail to keep said lot or premises, including enclosed porches, carports, and patios clean and free from garbage, little refuse, rubbish and any other matter which may accumulate or which shelter or encourage the growth of insects, pests, rodents, fleas, rats or snakes or which offend the general welfare of the community such that it causes or tends to cause substantial diminution of value of other property in the neighborhood.”

“I’m here because as a retired police officer I believe in due diligence,” Liptak said. “I just want the city to enforce its ordinance.”

Liptak told council members that he has been a resident of Hughen Street for 23 years. The property, which is two lots down from his, was purchased in 2014.

The problems began, Liptak said, when the neighbor “stopped mowing the lawn” four years later.

Liptak said he went to the city and eventually the city mowed the lawn but, he said, the problems didn’t stop there.

“The motivation for my complaint was not only now his lawn, but also the accumulation of garbage in his backyard,” Liptak said in an email to The Onlooker. “I have no explanation for his behavior and never had any problems with him up to this point.”

Liptak said he had meetings with the mayor and the property owner in April and appearing before the Aug. 3 council meeting was a follow-up to those meetings. The other property owner was not present for the Aug. 3 meeting.

“We’ve kicked this can down the road for nearly two years and I just want the city to take action,” Liptak said in a phone interview following the Aug. 3 meeting.

Also in a phone interview, Mayor Charles Murphy said the next step for the city is for the building inspector to go to the police department and issue a warrant. The case would then come before a judge in the city’s municipal court.

“It would then be up to a judge to decide whether or not to throw the case out or to give the property owner 30 days to correct the problem,” Murphy said. “At the end of the 30 days if he hasn’t corrected the problem, the judge can sentence him up to 30 days in jail.”

Liptak said he doesn’t think in needs to come to that.

“I’ve talked to every code enforcement officer in Baldwin County,” Liptak said. “Everyone I talked to used terms like in 99.9 percent of these cases, the case is resolved before it has to go to court. It doesn’t have to be this complicated. They issue a citation, give the property owner time to clean it up and if he doesn’t, he gets fined and it goes from there.”

At the very least, Liptak said, the property violates the city ordinance regarding the reduction of adjacent property values.

“There is at least one piece of property that has been for sale in that neighborhood for at least two years that still hasn’t sold,” he said, “and I believe that property has something to do with it.”

Murphy said he is hoping for a resolution to the situation that will benefit all parties involved.

“I do believe that Mr. Liptak has a valid point,” Murphy said. “It is my hope that we can all work together to get to a point where we can reach a resolution where everyone feels like a winner.”

In other business Aug. 3, the council approved resolutions to certify elections for two of the council seats after only the incumbents qualified for the upcoming municipal election.

In separate votes, the council approved the certification for Ruthie Campbell for Place 3 and Paul Hollingsworth for Place 5.

Murphy and three of the five council members will face opposition in Robertsdale’s municipal election Aug. 25.

Murphy will face two challengers, Roger Booth, who ran against Murphy in 2012 and 2016; and Tim Brown, who was narrowly defeated by Brent Kendrick in the 2016 race for the Place 4 council seat.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Kitchens will face opposition from Jim Giles, Kendrick will be opposed by Russell Johnson and Lonnie Ard will oppose Sue Cooper in Place 2.

Also on Aug. 3, the council:

• Denied an ad request from Gulf Coast Media for the upcoming Fall Sports Preview.

• Approved the purchase of a full page ad with Gulf Coast Media for the upcoming Baldwin County Fair Tabloid at a cost of $800.

• Approved a request from Public Works to surplus a Ford Ranger from the Media Department.

• Approved write-offs for city utilities in the amount of $46,052.47. Robertsdale CFO Ann Simpson said the amount represents just over 0.3 percent of the city’s total $15 million in utilities customers.

• Approved the purchase of a full-page ad in the upcoming Robertsdale High School Football Program at a cost of $500.

• Adopted an ordinance to annex property on Buck Road into the city limits. The council voted to suspend the rules for immediate passage by unanimous roll call vote before passing the ordinance unanimously by roll call vote.