The Transylvania Times -

By Mark Todd
Staff Writer" 

Appearances Still Count With County Program


April 3, 2009

See Off resident Marie Golden is glad this collapsed mobile home (above) has been removed (below). (Courtesy photos)

Marie Golden, who lives in the See Off community, said she can breathe a lot easier now.

At one point, Golden had been worried about a mobile home that belonged to one of her neighbors.

The man's son placed junk in the home, which later collapsed, she said.

The home attracted snakes and rats. Someone lifted a board on the property and 14 copperhead snakes were found underneath, she said.

Children like to play in her neighborhood, and the thought of those snakes kept her worried all the time, Golden said.

She called County Manager Artie Wilson to ask for help through the Community Appearance Initiative Council program, and the property was cleaned up.

"I'm very pleased," Golden said.

Transylvania County's almost two-year-old campaign to beautify the community's roadsides has had a number of success stories.

Since roughly June of 2007, the county's Community Appearance Initiative Council has worked on 29 projects that have resulted in the demolition of 13 old mobile homes.

The program has also led to the recycling of 53 vehicles and the removal of 135 tons of solid waste from properties adjacent to state roads, according to County Planner Mike Thomas.

The county has spent $14,000 in public funds so far to assist property owners with clean-up projects in some cases.

"This was done with voluntary cooperation and partnership with property owners and not with a mandatory junk ordinance," Thomas said.

In August of 2006 county commissioners voted to proceed with the community appearance initiative developed by the county's Planning Board.

At one point, the county considered a mandatory junk ordinance but dropped the idea because of strong public opposition.

Thomas said he and other members of the Appearance Council want people to know that assistance is still available for the removal of unwanted, dilapidated and abandoned mobile homes, vehicles and other scrap and solid waste.

Since public funds are used, the program's records are available, but the county doesn't go out of the way to attract attention to individuals who participate unless they want to do so.

"We have tried to keep the work with individual owners confidential and low key," Thomas said.

Another example of the program's success involves a county native, Jo Ann Powers, who owned two mobile homes off U.S. 64 in Penrose. She now lives in Georgia but used the homes for vacations. Unfortunately, the homes were occupied by squatters and damaged beyond repair.

"Living out of state could have made the process very difficult, but your assistance, recommendations and follow ups have made the clean up and recycling extremely easy," Powers said in a letter to Thomas.

"I want to commend your department for trying to make Transylvania County a cleaner, more attractive environment. I hope others will use your services to improve the appearance of the community."

The county assisted Powers in finding someone to remove the homes and recycle the usable material.

Terry Crowe, a Rosman businessman and former member of the county Planning Board, was until recently also the Council's chairman.

"I think the program worked very well because of the voluntary approach," he said.

Council member Don Surrette said treating people like neighbors instead of acting like they were doing something wrong has been critical to the success of the program.

"These people have a sense of pride," he said.

Surrette said that had the county adopted a junk ordinance and hired an enforcement officer it would have likely meant legal challenges and the costs associated with an additional county employee. The program's priority is to work first on properties that are visible from state roads.

The county also offers to put property owners in touch with contractors who might assist.

The initiative does not apply to junk brought into the county after the start of the program.The benefits are intended to be for one-time only for any property owner. Those helped must agree to prevent further placement of junk on the their property.

For more information, call Thomas at 884-3205.

If you are interested in serving on the Council, contact the clerk to the board of commissioners Trisha McLeod at 884-3100.


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