HELLERTOWN-Council to end junk car permits
At their Feb. 5 meeting, council discussed options on how to deal with junked or abandoned vehicles. After several complaints from residents about increasing numbers of inoperable vehicles being left out by residents with little or no effort to repair them, the borough wants to resolve a situation that some believe is a growing problem.
Some concerned citizens believe the vehicles will lower their property values.
As discussed in the last meeting, the borough can’t cite someone for having multiple vehicles left out, unless they can prove public harm according to nuisance laws. Some examples of harm would be broken glass, animals living in the vehicle and so forth.
Up to this point, the borough was allowing individuals to have renewable permits for junked or abandoned vehicles as long as they were covered with blue tarps and were not violating nuisance laws. However, the borough now believes the permits are being overused. According to officials, this overuse is leading to a storage situation that has many neighbors concerned.
Since the last meeting, Solicitor Michael Corriere went back and looked at case law to see what options the borough has. According to Corriere, under the Commonwealth vs. Nicely, the borough can cite individuals using the property maintenance code. According to the code, it “specifically prohibit, inter alia, the storage, keeping or parking of inoperative and/or unlicensed motor vehicles on property.” Corriere went onto to note, you can cite someone for property maintenance issues without having to prove nuisance.
In a nutshell, the code does not regulate specific vehicles per se, but rather it regulates the property they sit on.
Corriere did note a conflict with the property code and existing permits. He said if someone already has a permit for the vehicle, citing them for property maintenance is “problematic at best.”
Based on this information, council appeared to believe continuing to allow permits for these vehicles does not help the situation.
In a unanimous vote, council will advertise the repeal of permits for junked or abandoned vehicles, which essentially puts a freeze on all new permits until a full repeal can be enacted. In the meantime, those residents who have permits can keep them until they expire.
With the repeal forthcoming, the borough still has the option to cite someone under nuisance laws if it’s warranted, but in addition they will have the option to cite any residents under the property maintenance code with inoperable or unregistered vehicles on their property even if nothing is wrong with the vehicles.