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No ordinances against debris on property outside city limits

By: Paula Walter
Assistant Editor

Recent concerns raised at previous county commissioners’ meetings regarding debris and unsanitary conditions in the county led The Tomahawk to look into any ordinances and regulations currently in place in Johnson County.
At the June county commission meeting, David McLemore asked the commissioners to consider implementing an ordinance to address residential properties that were overgrown, unkempt, had unsanitary animal pens or junk metal on the premises. At that time, no motion was made concerning his request. McLemore returned to the July meeting, again addressing his concerns. After some questions by Jerry Grindstaff, the commissioner stated he had researched the property in question and found it had been in the same family for three generations. He added McLemore could accept his neighbors as they are or he could move to another location where there may be more controls in place, such as an area with a homeowner’s association or a move to Watauga County. McLemore addressed concerns he had regarding social issues and child endangerment in regard to unsanitary conditions in the county before he left the courtroom. Attempts to reach Grindstaff for comment have been unsuccessful as of press time.
While Mountain City has multiple regulations concerning junked or abandoned vehicles, overgrown and dirty lots, stagnant water, weeds, dead animals and homes that are not fit for human occupation that are subject to fines, Johnson County does not.
“There is no zoning and no specific ordinances,” said Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter, although there are specific requirements for trucks carrying loads to be covered with tarps. The State of Tennessee has been called on in the past to lend assistance for oil spill issues and clean up.
According to Johnson County Tax Assessor Matthew Lewis, evaluations to determine the value of homes and properties are based on inspections of structural issues on the home itself, including foundations, any cracks or settling that might indicate problems, as well as the condition of windows in the unit. The assessment for tax purposes is strictly based on these parameters.
However, the value of real estate for selling purposes is very much impacted by surrounding properties.
“The aesthetic value or curb appeal is the most key thing about selling a place,” said Rudy Lucas with Mullins Real Estate.
Sandy Hammons is in charge of litter control in Johnson County. Her jurisdiction only encompasses county road right-of-ways.
“There’s nothing I can do,” said Hammons with regard to debris on private properties. “There is nothing in place.”

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