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Navasota: Keep junk cars out of sight

Those who have an inoperable car to tinker on in Navasota may want to consider where the vehicle is being stored.

The city soon will be addressing “junk vehicles,” a process that ultimately could end in the forced removal and scrapping of unregistered vehicles from private property.

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Navasota officials define a junk vehicle as “any vehicle viewable from a public right-of-way which has an expired registration sticker attached, is wrecked, dismantled or inoperable.”

Kris Gruver, community outreach specialist for the city, said he doesn’t want to upset those with junk vehicles and force them to lose their collections or repair projects. However, over the past few months, officials have received phone calls from concerned home owners about unsightly junked cars in their neighbors’ yards. The city has tried to work with junk car owners in coming to a resolution but haven’t had much citizen cooperation.

“It’s probably something that happens in every town, but we’ve gotten a lot of complaints,” Gruver said. “A lot of people keep [these vehicles] thinking they’re going to work on them at some point, but they keep deteriorating.”

It’s standard procedure in Texas for code enforcement staff to proceed with abatement, citing offenders and eventually hauling off junk cars for scrap by force, 10 days after an official notice has been given to the offenders. Gruver said notices would be presented to the vehicle’s lienholder or owner, as well as the owner of the property. Those held responsible for the vehicle would have those 10 days to relocate it to a spot where it is not visible from a public road, or contest the citation with a judge.

“We’re not going to do it by the book, though,” Gruver said, “because we’re going to give people extra notice about the vehicle before that ’10-day letter.'”

On Jan. 17, city officials will begin their sweep of the city. The city limits will be divided into four sections, and one section will be tackled each week. Gruver and staff will be looking for junk vehicles and will issue warning notices by the end of the month. Official citations will be issued Feb. 10, though Gruver said he wants to give citizens an extended period to amend their situation or speak with a county judge, so automobiles will not be hauled off until March.

“Hopefully I won’t have to [haul vehicles],” Gruver said. “That ordinance was written very harshly, and I didn’t want to have to do it that way.”

Over the past year, Gruver and staff have performed several clean-up efforts for the city, doing “junk sweeps” for items left in front yards, as well as two sweeps for tall weeds and grass.

Gruver said he and his staff would like to help any Navasota citizens who are having trouble relocating their vehicles, as he’s helped people push their vehicles out of sight, in a backyard or other area away from public sight.

“All people need to do is contact City Hall,” he said.

Bryan and College Station have similar rules for dealing with junked vehicles. In College Station, code enforcement officers regularly monitor neighborhoods and commercial properties for any code violations. Owners of junk vehicles are contacted with a 10-day notice left on their door.

Julie Caler, code enforcement supervisor for the city, noted that College Station city staff and officers are understanding that many vehicles are costly to repair, and the city is willing to cooperate with owners by offering a reasonable amount of time before action is taken and a court summons or citation is issued.

In 2016, College Station staff did not have to forcefully abate and scrap any vehicles. Two vehicles were abated by the city, but with the blessing of their owners. The city dealt with 68 junk vehicle cases in 2016, and in all those cases citizens were compliant in resolving the issue.

Bryan officials also operate on a 10-day notice system of abatement.

“A lot of people are not familiar with the state law, and they’re probably wondering what’s going on,” Gruver said. “It’s never really been enforced here, or in many other towns, for that matter.”

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