County to sue Cismont dump owners

Since Albemarle County "officially" discovered a junkyard in January 2005 after a major fire– even though the property had been generating complaints as far back as 1976– the owners have been working on cleaning up the site.

All that ended with an inspection January 10. Today, Albemarle announced it will be seeking civil penalties of around $5,000 against Cecil and Doris Gardner after they missed a December 31, 2007, deadline set by the Board of Supervisors for a full cleanup. [At left is an aerial view, date unknown, of the Gardner property from the county's website.]

"There's been significant progress," says County spokeswoman Lee Catlin, who stressed the County had been seeking voluntary compliance to clean up the dump rather than litigation, and had extended a deadline in June to December.

"The county felt that voluntary compliance had run its course as far as being effective, and it was time for an enforcement approach," says Catlin.

All of the hazardous materials on the Gardners' 16-acre Campbell Road property were removed immediately, according to Catlin, and county staff describes what remains as "junk," including inoperable vehicles, car parts, and a quantity of wood that can't be legally burned, albeit grouped at several different staging areas as if assembled for pickup.

Litigation could limit access to the site and could take a year or more. "We lose the great majority of our ability to control the timeline," Catlin notes. The County will file in Albemarle General District Court and seek a court-imposed cleanup.

"[M]y family has done nothing we consider wrong, illegal, or to hurt the environment," writes Linda Shifflett, the Gardners' daughter, in a statement on behalf of her family. "My father has always been big on recycling everything, not just setting it out on the curb and let[ting] it go to the landfill."

She contends that "99.999 percent" of the material found on her parents' property was metal slated for recycling, and the remainder was plastic or rubber attached to whatever was being recycled–- "not a bunch of trash."

Shifflett attributes the county's civil action to neighbor complaints over the years, which she calls "very personal," and she decries the "harassment" of her septuagenarian parents. "How many other zoning violations have gotten this much attention and even have a weekly email update because of the constant hounding?" she asks.

"I would not characterize this as the result of pressure from neighbors," says Catlin, whose office has prepared frequent emails about the situation.

Neighbors such as Snookie Wawner, who lives next door to the Gardners, remain skeptical of the latest county action. "I don't think it will do much good," he says. "My major concern is the county not doing its job."

"The county should now equally enforce the closure of all identified illegal dumps," says former neighbor Pat Napoleon. "This leadership in the county is long overdue."
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26 comments

Not Angry at all and have another cruise planned for March. And yes I know who you are. Amazing what you can find on the internet and by having friends in high places. The cruise was relaxing by the way. And you only wish you could see my families art. You must have good eyes or have been trespassing which is it, unless the tractor in the front yard offends you. Why even the media cant get a picture of all the junk you think is there, they use old pictures or take a picture of a tractor and call it junk, which by the way isn't going anywhere.

Ms Shifflett, the reality is, it doesn't matter who I am. No one cares but you. No, I can assure you, I have not trespassed on your family land. You must be imagining things?
I wouldn't want to walk through this ugly,trashy,smelling dump. I surely have better places to go.
There are government sanctioned overhead photos, and I have seen them. The pictures speak to the alarming and sick story that your family has created. In fact, such images are available for certain people to view. The trick, you must know people in "high places", in order to access them. Obviously, you haven't seen them. Many people are watching. Enjoy the cruise, but until then,take a hike through the dump.

I see the county's talking head is talking out of both sides of her mouth again and the real people responsible for NOT following up on complaints since 1976 are silent. Let's see...they have cleaned it up but they haven't so we are suing them. LOL Give me a break! Who is accountable?

The county must believe they could win such a suit. Why would they risk positioning themselves in a losing battle?

My comment was not intimidating, it was instructional. Sheesh. I don't have any personal stake, nor do I live anywhere near there. I am interested in this case because I have, unfortunately, been down a similar road myself. Additionally, I know someone in an entirely different part of the county who will be traveling this road soon himself.

To clear this up, the Freedom of Information Act is NOT designed to get PERSONAL information on private citizens. i.e. their income, bank account numbers, personal correspondence, etc. It was created as a mechanism for citizens to have oversight against governmental abuses, not as a method for private citizens to spy on, or harass, each other. Period.

For instance, if one were to FOIA the county's records on the dump case, one might possibly find out that the county did NOT in fact give Mr Gardner adequate warnings regarding the clean-up, thus bolstering his case. Or one might might well find the opposite to be true. That's all. It wouldn't tell anyone what is in the Gardner's closets, or how much money they have in their retirement fund. You are correct though, this information would definitely tell the Gardner's neighbors where they live, as if they didn't already know. And Linda Shifflett has dropped helpful hints describing the property should anyone care to drive by and take a gander at it.

Indeed, court cases are very expensive and should be avoided at all costs. Therefore, it's a tremendous pity that, in the words of the family members themselves, they felt the need to instruct the county to go ahead and sue 'em. Unless I'm mistaken, the family appeared to be acting unilaterally and without duress from any outside parties. So if you have an issue with your taxes regarding this case, perhaps you should take it up with them yourself.

Cismont Friend, I honestly think the county has to take their share of the blame here and suck it up. The court might well agree with that assessment, but it's impossible to guess because, absent the actual county documents, no one can tell whether due process was followed or not. Whether they didn't take y'alls' concerns seriously enough over the years and failed to act decisively, or they were just trying to cut the Gardners some slack because they pitied them, it's now one hot mess. Hope some good hard lessons are learned all around after the dust settles.

I quote Lee Caitlin "There's been signifcant progress" so why would the county spend more tax payers money? You can't tell someone one thing and just because some people complain turn around and say Oh we (county) made a mistake. The county should let this family finish cleaning up what they need to clean up and the neighbors should just back off. This could drag out for years in the courts and it seems to me the family has a good case/suit against the county and possible the neighbor. I wish the family the best of luck. I have never condoned the Freedom of Information Act. Why do some people want to noise in other peoples business......

now you is actin meen to me.i aint dun nothin to you.what is spell check? you shud say you sorre.
no i dizagree.i hurd folks down thare dont care how longe it take as long as yall git job done rite.thay aint worrie bout what county do. i no thay got plinty money in thet nieborhood and hoo nos.thay jus sittin an watchen.if i wus yall i wood git thet place cleend up fast. i nos sum of them peple.i wood not mes with em. they haz dug there feet in.thay aint givin up.so my advise git rid thet stuf quik.

Thankfully there is a means at the disposal of the citizenry to ensure at least some level of transparency in government. Although apparently not personally condoned by the poster calling itself "FOIA", it can be a useful tool when all other avenues have failed.

Here is an informational link for folks who wish to learn more about Sunshine Laws:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_information_in_the_United_States

And "FOIA", if you think the Gardner family has even a shred of a legal case against any of their neighbors for reporting legitimate code violations, or merely expressing their opinions about the dump in their midst, then you need to double-check this theory of yours with an attorney ASAP. However, do not be surprised to find yourself back out in the parking lot, standing next to your vehicle bewildered and $200 poorer, and wondering why on earth everyone in the office was laughing so hard. (Here's a hint, it's covered by the US Constitution.) The Gardners AND their neighbors are allowed to express their opinions, okay? Not JUST the Gardners. I seriously can't believe I actually had to explain that to you.

hey Pat are you even a county resident?

County Guy---FYI--No, I live in the city. I own the property across from the CISMONT DUMP. I am also a taxpayer/county.

Sound to me that alot of people don't know what there talking about to make comments I've been reading. Seems to me the county did the family a favor by going to court, now this can drag out for years. As far as the satelite picture that show nothing a bomb whatever. I don't want to sound mean NoNo but do you know how to use spell check?

cool down?...I was unaware that my question was a hostile act. I was wondering why a city resident was so concerned- now we know.

NO NO why didn't you use your really name...could it be that you already have?

countyguy-you ok noboby worry bout that. just make you look noisey
My Gud ,ya ll see that satelate picture? What has happen there?
look like a bom hit-and sploaded to me. Thet is sad and bad. they tell me floks in chiner see the same picture.
thay say you cant hide from the sky.
clenup quik

MS Shifflett, You say here your family has done nothing you consider wrong or illegal. Are you sure of that? Then why is the county filing suit?

For Your Info Cismont Friend/Pat Napolean WE told the county to file suit we are tired of the neighbors knowing our business. This way YOU wont know a thing about what is going on unles you show up in court. There will be No more updates posted for your reading pleasure. Why do you think nothing was done the last couple of weeks? Oh by the way the Gardner's were on a cruise with there daughter the last week of December since you and a few other neighbors were so worried about were we were and if it was a emergency, and the kicker is the county knew were we were.

MS Shifflett
This is very interesting. It must have been nice to relax on a cruise during a time of unmet deadlines and while the remainder of the neighborhood stayed home looking at your family's junk.
Are you SURE you know who I am? You would be surprised! Clue-think of someone you saw last month....
You appear very angry. Take another cruise.

Linda, in reference to the tractor in the front yard.... it's worth a healthy chunk of change ya know! Get that thing appraised and sell it if it does have to leave.

Know why I frequent The Hook so much now? Because there is at least one or two guaranteed laughs a day here in the blogs. Every day some person calling themselves something like "countyguy" will ask somebody like "No No" why they aren't using their real name. I often ask myself if I could possibly be the only one in the world who even notices this! :)

This is all very interesting. How could anyone believe Doolittle's comment is "intimidating"?
The county must believe they have a winable case. Many are curious as to whether the court could order the landowner to "repay" the county's court costs. The idea floating around out there, suggests taxpayers should "not" ultimately foot the bill. Any ideas on this?
It appears, some in the family do not take the consequences of court action seriously. In pushing to county to act, they are setting themselves up for a costly and rough ride. Sounds to me, the party is over.

Dolittle, What???? I don't know who you think I might be but you do have a imagination I can say that. You should just blog yourself back and forth. My comment was if the land owner's were working with the county then that's the way it should have stayed. NOT SPEND MORE TAX PAYER'S MONEY. You being so intelligent you must know what it cost to go to court. And NO I dont believe in Freedom of Information do you like the fact someone can find out were you live, how much you make, and your criminal history etc. well I don't and that is MY opinion. You sound very intimidating you must have a person stake in this as well as Cismont Friend. I too am like "sick of the local rambos" enjoy reading other people's blogs for laugh's to start my day.

It is obvious who you ARE or at least you appear to be closely related. Get over it, FOI is here to stay! As you know, Doolittle certainly recommends it highly.
Sue the neighbors? Seems you have enough of a problem on your hands. And also, don't forget, "somone" has probably burned her own bridges with a suit, as "she herself" has already crossed a legal line hurling forth innapropriate words in the blog. Remember doing that? We do. Many are continuing to watch you. Come on, the neighbors have lawyers too. You would certainly be no threat in a court of law. All the neighbors are entitled to express opinion. From my observation, their communications are certainly more effective. Stop attempting to scare the neighbors. You're doing a poor job here. Sounds as if you are in denial also. I don't believe you think the law or county is serious about going forth with a suit. Has the county told the family something different than they told the press?

county guy why you asken her that for? whats that Have to do with that dump? scared to give your name?looks thet way.
time to cool down boy!

Linda
quit responding to these people, oh by the way can't make the cruise have a good time
love ya

FOIA,
Let me also comment with regard to your concerns "FOIA".
Having worked for the govt, I happen to know more than a few things related to your question. FOIA is a good tool for law abiding individuals who have questions about those who violate the law. The public is entitled to gain certain documents. Having such a safeguard in place, stops crime and exposes wrongdoing. Law abiding individuals have nothing to fear. Those entities in violation have much to fear because of FOIA. The facts will come out here. FOI is not about being nosey. It is about entitlement to the truth. FOI keeps society "in check." Long live FOI.

shifflett
i wus reedin abuv an i has a qweschun.you sade yall askd the counte to suu yall.why you doin that to yerself?enyways this dont make sence to noboby.
thay tells me the counte aint gonna lissin to yall an jus doo sutes cause yall tellz em to do it.you spect us to bleeve this?counte must have there own reezons to doo it.
them peple doun thier en cizmout gonna wate it awl out.jus you wate an sees.my opinyon thet is.mabe you be niser to thim and thay be mor undirstandin bout awl of thiss.this aint no tyme to akt hi hat ed an brag bout thim cruzes.

Shifflett
noboby askin to see yalls art.what you talkin bout? them peple sic of it.
i aint good at spellin but i bleeve you shood git off the cruze ship an kleen up the dump. my opinyin.aint you fraid of the law?gud! id be runnin.