Couple racks up $226,000 fine for yard junk

Plywood, glass, ladders, gym lockers, tires, etc. - it all has to go by Tuesday

Posted: Friday, June 19, 2009

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage couple fined $226,000 for accumulating junk in their yard has been ordered to clean up the property by Tuesday.

Superior Court Judge John Suddock this month issued the order to David and Jane Szabo.

City officials say if the landowners don't clean up the eyesore, the city will at the couple's expense.

"There's been complaints from the neighbors from the very first," said Jack Frost, Anchorage's chief of code enforcement. "We've been working with them way too long."

Frost estimates the cost of clearing tons of rubbish at $45,000.

The property is on a dirt road nestled against Little Rabbit Creek. It has at least 10 vehicles parked on it. Many are rusted out and surrounded by untamed vegetation.

There are piles of plywood, wire, glass, ladders, a garbage can, a section of black gym lockers, cement mixing equipment, tires, a rusted wire rack and pallets.

The Szabos could not be reached for comment.

Across the street, neighbor Leonard Stanley said junk began piling up as soon as the couple moved in. He tried to talk to David Szabo to let him know the junk was not acceptable in the neighborhood.

"He says, 'This is my property. I can do anything I want.' And I didn't bother from then on," Stanley said. "And he's a nice guy. Believe it or not, I like him. But I don't have to like that."

The city confronted the Szabos about the junk in June 2002, Frost said. Enforcement officers were hoping for a voluntary cleanup.

The city in August 2003 issued an order demanding a cleanup. The Szabos unsuccessfully appealed and since Sept. 8, 2003, have been subject to a fine of $250 a day as the violations continue.

City officials for years tried to work with the Szabos to get them to comply, Frost said.

"They've been promising to clean up. They'll make small gains; they'll remove a couple of vehicles and drag more on, that type of situation," Frost said. "It just appeared that maybe there was an opportunity for them to work their way through it."

Since the ultimatum, the Szabos have cleared out a lot of their stuff, Stanley said. There is a space in front of the home that was once piled over like the rest of the place, he said. Much more remains and city officials are skeptical that the deadline will be met.

A judge will consider what happens next at a hearing Tuesday, Frost said. If the property is cleared, the fine could be significantly reduced. Otherwise, the Szabos could be hit for the full amount, plus the cost of a city cleanup, he said. If they don't pay, the city could get a lien against their property.

"It'd be great if they clean it up. That's what we're hoping for," Frost said. "I think seven years is long enough."

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