Local News

Wake man sentenced to jail after messy property complaint

Posted October 13, 2011
Updated October 14, 2011

— A Wake County judge on Thursday ordered a homeowner to spend 60 days in jail for failing to clean up his messy property, which was later damaged in a fire.

Mike Cole and his family moved to the 3 ½-acre property at 11000 Eaglerock Drive in northern Wake County in 1991. He wanted a place where he could work on his projects and restore old cars.

“I’m not your average, everyday live-in-a-neighborhood kind of person. I never have been,” he said.

Cole said he co-existed peacefully with his neighbors until 2009, when neighbor James Hoffman complained to the county that Cole’s property was unkempt. After receiving the complaint, Wake County got a civil court order mandating that Cole clean up his property.

Hoffman, who has a limited view of Cole’s property through the trees for most of the year, said Friday that several neighbors have complained over the years and the county pursued the court case.

"At no time has this been a neighbor-on-neighbor issue. We had no problems with the Coles. They're fine folk. We have a problem with their property," he said.

"My wife and I regret that the Cole family must endure the hardship of Mike returning to jail for a second time as a result of his unwillingness to respond to the court-ordered property cleanup," he said. "Efforts to get Mr. Cole to clean up this property go back more than 10 years, we are hopeful that we may all be able to put this matter behind us soon."

Cole's property is difficult to see from the street. Anyone wanting to see it has to walk up the driveway, past the "private property" and "no trespassing" signs and peer through a fence.

Trashy property spurs jail sentence Trashy property spurs jail sentence

“I have been working on it diligently. We've hauled tons, I mean literally tons of stuff out of here,” Cole said.

Eight months ago, in February, a fire destroyed Cole's two-story house.

“Everything was here. This was our home. For 20 years, we've been here,” he said.

The fire delayed the cleanup process, according to Cole, whose case went before the court five times. When the county's civil contempt case went back in front of a judge, Cole’s lawyer argued his client needed more time.

“He's not flouted the authority of the court. He's not acted willfully. He's not acted deliberately,” said attorney Jack Nichols. “But he's been out there consistently trying to remove this property.”

County attorney Scott Warren said Cole had had enough time.

“They have had, at their request, over 180 days, over six months to do this,” Warren said.

Hoffman noted that he has written letters for years to get the property cleaned up. Cole even spent 30 days in jail last year over the same issue.

"(He's) running a junkyard" without a permit in a subdivision that has homeowner covenants," Hoffman said.

Superior Court Judge Shannon Joseph sided with the county Thursday, holding Cole in contempt of court and sending him to jail for 60 days, beginning Friday.

The judge said Cole could be released early if his property is cleaned up while he is in jail. Cole says he can clean up his mess, but not from the Wake County jail.


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  • barbstillkickin Oct 20, 2011

    You are all right lets fill the jail with these horrific junk hoarders but we might just be to full to put the murderer behind bars cause it is full of the junk people. Wow we can have illegals running around free, drivers on cell phones, and robbers running amok but lets put the junkers in jail. HA HA HA

  • storchheim Oct 14, 2011

    Now I'm a little irked. Why didn't WRAL say that the junk could be seen from the road? They said you had to walk up the driveway and "peer through a fence."

    I believe the poster who says it looked like a junkyard, because their tone is levelheaded and the style is credible. I took side against the junkman, and this is the first we've been told that you didn't have to "trespass", as so many here were quick to assume and talk big about. WRAL's getting to have a bit of a cred problem.

  • Native Kansan Oct 14, 2011

    I agree that it's a shame for people to create problems for their neighbors out of spite, but as copied directly from the article...
    "(He's) running a junkyard" without a permit in a subdivision that has homeowner covenants," Hoffman said.
    Because of the covenants, he is required to keep his property clean. He was given a copy of the neighborhood covenants when he moved there, and knows he's not meeting the requirements within. Break the rules, and you will have to pay. One way or another. Fair or not...

  • mymailbox186099 Oct 14, 2011

    As Paul Harvey said, "and now the rest of the story.." It's interesting to read all of the comments from those that have never visited the neighborhood. The junk had accumulated for the past 10 years to the point that it flowed out of the their driveway and numerous junk cars were visible all along the front of the property. When visitors to your house ask "is that a junkyard in the neighborhood", then there is a problem. And no, the neighbors don't hate the Coles and they are sorry for their loss. It's unfortuate that the news story chose to make it one neighbor vs another. It really was the County that initiated the court action due to noncompliance over a long period of time.

  • itsmyownopinion Oct 14, 2011

    itsmyownopinion, you're welcome! Hope you're laughing WITH me...it's funny now, but it sure wasn't at the time. You should see the family I sold the place to, though...I "got even!"

    LOL I had to check back -- still laughing. :)

  • superman Oct 14, 2011

    It appears that the neighbors had nothing else to worry about so they take him on. Since he is in jail I sure he will have nicer roommates and neigbors than he is has when he is at home. The guys house burned down--I think he has more than enough to worry about than cleaning up his yard. This sounds like something out of Cary.

  • storchheim Oct 14, 2011

    itsmyownopinion, you're welcome! Hope you're laughing WITH me...it's funny now, but it sure wasn't at the time. You should see the family I sold the place to, though...I "got even!"

  • TITAN4X4 Oct 14, 2011

    I'm not a horder, but I do have some junk! Livining in a small sandhill town with about 2 acres is nice, even if it is in town. I respect my neighbors, and they respect me. If someone has to "almost" trespass to see your junk, they are just a nosey neighbor. thank god that I don't have a neighborhood association to get involved. To those that measure and cut your grass to exact length, please move to Garner or Cary. Some of us like a little junk in our trunks/ trucks. Amen!

  • storchheim Oct 14, 2011

    miktroll, sounds more like the whole neighborhood hates Cole's guts. Hoffman isn't the only one to have complained, and Cole already spent time in jail for this. Clearly he's no asset, and sounds like the neighbor from Inferno. How do you "try" to clean up - for six months? If he'd been complying with the order - and yes, the county CAN do this, whether you agree or not - he'd have it cleaned up by now. And if six months' diligent work isn't enough to clear 3.5 acres, it was BAD.

    Cole's the neighborhood nuisance, just like the dog owner whose dog "just bolts out the door" several times every day, is never on a leash, barks constantly, and defecates in your yard. Yet you will find that neighbors who take action against the dog owner (calling Animal Control) are vilified.

    I applaud Hoffman for standing up, and wish the other neighbors who complained had the guts to come forward too. Too bad he'll be stigmatized over this clown's entitlement attitude.

  • twc Oct 14, 2011

    A man tries to buy enough land to have a little privacy and live his life peacefully and ... wham! ... here come the uppity.

    I'm guessing the complainant believes the other man's land is affecting the value of the complainant's land.

    I wonder how many acres the complainant has. It looks like enough that he would be able to have his own privacy without his nose drifting over to his neighbor's property.

    Some of those uppity HOA are even concerned about the type of car you drive, or how many friends and relatives visit.