Raleigh tells tornado victims to clean up debris
Housing inspectors have started issuing notices to Raleigh residents that they must remove any remaining debris from the tornado three months ago or face penalties if the city is forced to clean it up.Posted — Updated
The April 16 storm cut a swath from south of downtown through neighborhoods in east and northeast Raleigh.
City crews picked up downed trees and other vegetative debris through the end of May, but homeowners were expected to haul away construction debris like shingles, siding and insulation.
The Housing and Environmental Division of Raleigh's Inspections Department began sending letters to homeowners in early June if enough tornado debris remained to be considered a "public nuisance," said Ashley Glover, senior housing inspector for the city.
Glover said it's difficult to tell how many notices have been sent to tornado victims since they aren't separated from other warning letters the department sends to demand cleanup of local properties.
Homeowners have 10 days to clean up after receiving a notice. If they don't, Glover said, the city will charge them for the cost of a cleanup, along with a $175 fee.
"We'll go in and do the abatement and send the bill to the owner," he said. "If they don't pay it, there's a lien put against their property."
Martin Evans, who lives in the hard-hit McKinley Mill neighborhood in northeast Raleigh, said the city told him that he had too much debris on his property. The house has been gutted, and contractors are waiting for payment from Evans' insurance company to begin making repairs.
"My first reaction when I got the letter was extreme disappointment. I was angry," he said. "It's been run, run, run the whole time (trying to make repairs). Debris on the sidewalk has been the least of our concerns."
Evans is living in an apartment in Wake Forest and said he didn't get the city letter until only three days were left in the 10-day window for cleanup. Inspectors gave him additional time to remove the debris, he said, and his contractor cleared a pile away last week.
He and his neighbors questioned the timing of the letters, saying people are still trying to put their lives back together after the tornado.
"To not have that kind of understanding, that was the most frustrating thing," Evans said.
Glover said homeowners should call the Inspections Department with any concerns about the warning letters, and officials will work with them on a case-by-case basis.
"We're not going to give them an extension forever. We've got to get it resolved and cleaned up," he said. "It's just time to start moving forward."