Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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Neighbor, city have complained about code enforcement issues at mayoral candidate’s home

The oft-heard advice to would-be politicos that they should get their own houses in order may have eluded one mayoral contender in Burlington – at least according to the city’s inspections department, which has repeatedly reprimanded the candidate over his home’s allegedly ramshackle condition.

Walter Yates Boyd, an attorney and amateur historian who is currently locked in a five-way race for Burlington’s mayor, was already on notice with the city’s inspections department before he formally threw his hat into the ring in July. In fact, the department’s code enforcement staff took Boyd to task more than a year earlier after a neighbor complained about damaged overhangs in his roof of his home at 407 Meadowood Drive.

Walter Yates Boyd, when he filed for mayor earlier this year.                                           Photo credit: Tony Crider.

The department’s staff would go on to add several more code violations to this original lapse by the time that Boyd made his political debut on the first day of candidate registration in this year’s election. Since then, the mayoral hopeful has found himself in a veritable standoff with the city over his unsatisfactory housekeeping.

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Along the way, the city has issued several notices of violation and two sets of fines to elicit compliance from the allegedly recalcitrant homeowner. Boyd, in turn, is emphatic that he has been singled out for “harassment” by city staff members for peccadilloes that he insists he has done his dead-level best to address.

The twists and turn of this code enforcement saga are spelled out in some detail in the case file that the city’s inspections department has compiled on Boyd’s alleged violations. The city has shared the contents of this file with The Alamance News in response to a public records request that the newspaper submitted earlier this week.

Boyd’s house at 407 Meadowood Drive in Burlington this week.

A close-up of the peeling paint surrounding the front door, taken by a code enforcement officer with the city’s inspections department.

Among the materials that the newspaper ultimately obtained from the city are copies of the various notices that Boyd has received, photographs of his alleged code violations, the case notes of the code enforcement officer who has handled these matters, and the officer’s extensive email correspondence with the neighbor who originally brought the violations to the city’s attention.

According to these documents, the city initially received a complaint about the state of Boyd’s home in February of 2020 from his next-door neighbors David and Nancy Dickerson.

The couple’s chief concern at the time centered on “holes in [the] roof and facia boards” that had apparently become nesting places for animals. According to the case file, a code enforcement officer visited Boyd’s home later that month and took photographs after a knock on the door failed to draw out the homeowner. The officer followed up with a formal letter of intent to conduct an inspection after “repeated attempts for contact” reportedly received no reply.

The inspections department resumed its enforcement activities in the spring of this year after it received another complaint from the Dickersons about the continued degradation of Boyd’s residence. On May 26, the couple dispatched an email directly to Jeff McClintock, the code enforcement officer who had handled their previous complaint, about these “ongoing issues.”

“The complete absence of any home maintenance is resulting in deterioration of the structure, most notably the wood trim, soffits, and roof,” Boyd’s neighbors went on to state in their missive. “The back [y]ard is no longer mowed at all. There is debris and junk in the driveway and on the front porch. Multiple neighbors are asking us ‘what is going on over there,’ [and] the neighbor directly across the street has had his home on the market for months. I have to wonder if the house has not sold because of the appearance [of Boyd’s residence].”

In response to this renewed appeal from the neighbors, McClintock visited the property later that day and confirmed some of the observations that the Dickersons had mentioned to him.

“The property owner was not home so I could not make contact today,” he added in a subsequent email. “I posted a violation notice for a nuisance case for the weeds and garbage on the porch and around the driveway area. And [opened a] housing case for the condition of the residence.”

McClintock also took photographs of the dwelling’s exterior to illustrate some of the problems he noticed. Included in the case file are shots of peeling paint on the home’s front door and siding, holes in the overhangs, and dozens of discarded cat food cans on the front porch.

Dozens of cat food cans were on Boyd’s porch.

McClintock went on to issue a violation notice based on his inspection of Boyd’s property on May 26. This notice mentions several apparent breaches of Burlington’s minimum housing codes, including loose and eroded siding, broken or cracked “structural members,” and deterioration due to an apparent “lack of preventative maintenance.” The code enforcement officer proceeds to order the homeowner to “repair the holes” in the exterior and “replace any damaged or rotten wood, loose/missing siding, soffits, and boxing” and “broken, hanging gutters.”

In addition to these housing code violations, McClintock observed other nuisance-related issues, such as overgrown grass and stockpiles of garbage. He went on to demand that the homeowner “clean up [the] front porch area” of the dwelling, “remove all junk and trash from the property,” and “cut [the] weeds by [the] driveway.”

Boyd insists that he made a reasonable effort to correct all of these problems once they were brought to his attention. He is nevertheless adamant that the only serious defect amid this imbroglio of supposed violations is the damaged overhang that prompted the original complaint in 2020.

“Evidently this whole thing has something to do with that piece of wood on my front porch, and I have been trying to obtain the people to have that fixed,” Boyd told The Alamance News in an interview Wednesday. “[Contractors] were saying they couldn’t come out because of COVID and then they were saying that the price of lumber was too high…and I can’t get the house painted until the wood is repaired.”

Boyd added that he has been mowing his lawn whenever possible to address the code enforcement officer’s concerns about vegetation. This uptick in yard maintenance didn’t escape the watchful eyes of his neighbors, who informed McClintock that the “back yard was mowed right after your visit” in a follow-up email in June. The Dickersons added, however, that the manicured grass was “the only change that we’ve noticed” since the code enforcement officer’s inspection in May.

McClintock made a return trip to Boyd’s home on June 29 that seemed to confirm the inauspicious report he received from the neighbors. In his case notes from this follow-up visit, the code enforcement officer declares that he saw “no change in the property” aside from his observation that the “holes in the siding/soffit appear[ed] to be getting bigger.” McClintock also recalled that he encountered the homeowner during this visit, although he added that “[Boyd] refused to make any repairs” which he had proposed.

Shortly after this visit, McClintock issued a formal notice of violation that included a $100 penalty for the homeowner’s failure to take the corrective action he had requested.

According to a handwritten note in the case file, this fine was subsequently revoked after questions arose about the proper delivery of the preceding notice of violation. This note alludes to a subsequent letter as well as a notice that was posted on Boyd’s property on July 7.

Vote Jim Butler, Harold Owen, Ronnie Wall

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