Rule for property stymies officer

Total acreage of lot at issue in code’s loophole

As the code enforcement officer for Jackson County, Conner Barnette hit a roadblock concerning properties with junk cars, burnt houses and high grass.

According to the property maintenance ordinance, those aren’t violations if they are on more than 2 acres of property. At that point, it’s considered a farm estate, and farms are exempt from the ordinance.

Barnette, the county’s building commissioner, said it’s common sense when it comes to determining if the property is a farm or not.

“My thought is whether you have a 200-acre farm or you have a 2-acre parcel, you can’t have 25 vehicles parked on the property out by the road,” Barnette said. “If they do right now, they can go, ‘Well, we’re over 2 acres,’ and I can’t do anything about it.”

In unincorporated areas of Jackson County, Barnette said most properties are more than 2 acres. If complaints are made or he sees a violation, he can’t legally do anything if it’s on more than 2 acres.

He recently asked the Jackson County Commissioners about striking the acreage and farm verbiage from the ordinance, and that unanimously passed. County attorney Susan Bevers will make those amendments.

“I want him to be able to enforce the laws,” Commissioners President Matt Reedy said of Barnette. “And quite frankly, if they’ve got that many cars on the lot, they should have to get a variance (because it would be considered a junkyard).”

Barnette said at one time, the exemption for farms, existing estates and nonfarm premises was more than 1 acre. That was changed to 2 acres in 2003.

“What I ran into when trying to enforce it, there were parcels just over that that aren’t farms,” Barnette said.

In his year and a half on the job, Barnette said he has never received a complaint on a property that operates as a farm. With commissioners approving the amendments to the ordinance, he said he still didn’t think he would receive any complaints on a farm.

The junk car, burnt home and high grass issues only have been on other properties.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.