Skip to comments.Jailed for a messy yard
Posted on 03/09/2006 1:27:54 PM PST by Coleus
MAHWAH -- Two white watering cans and a yellow broom dangle above the porch of a stone and shingle house perched atop North Hillside Avenue. Just below, empty flower pots and plastic chairs and tables clutter the entryway. "No trespassing" and "Beware of dog" signs line the sloping property.
The more-than-100-year-old house has been home to Samantha Moor for 10 years. Its sloppy condition is the reason she nearly spent the night in jail. Moor, in her late 40s, was arrested Tuesday morning and sent to the Bergen County Jail for failing to pay $4,921 in fines issued by Mahwah for property maintenance violations. She was bailed out by her former husband just before midnight.
The township has issued Moor 37 summonses dating to April 2004. A warrant was issued for her arrest when she failed to make payments, as set forth by a municipal judge. "Since she couldn't afford to make the repairs, she couldn't afford to pay the fines," said George Cotz, a lawyer Moor called from jail on Tuesday. She was expected to appear in Municipal Court in Mahwah at 1:30 p.m. today, although Cotz, who is trying another case, won't be at her side.
Moor could not be reached for comment. Cotz said her phone has been disconnected. "I don't think she particularly has any marketable skills," Cotz said. "Before she got married and had a child, she was a clerk in an office. And I think she's got health issues.
"She really has no money," he said. "I don't think this is a show." Moor's troubles started with a dishonest contractor who tore apart her house and walked away with her money, according to Ian J. Hirsch, a Hackensack lawyer who used to represent her. The contractor was fined in Mahwah Municipal Court, but that didn't help Moor, Hirsch said. "The house stayed the way it was," he said. "The scaffolding stayed, there were shingles in the yard. It started to become an eyesore."
Moor's neighbors began complaining, and eventually the fines started piling up. "The town building inspector was very, very nice," Hirsch said. "We genuinely tried to help her. But she doesn't have any money, so what can she do?" When Moor was arrested Tuesday, she called another lawyer, Hirsch suspects, because she owes Hirsch money. "Had she called me, I would have helped her anyway," he said.
When Hirsch represented Moor, she was taking classes to become a plumber, he said. "She's trying to hold onto a piece of property she's not going to be able to." Moor's property taxes were paid in full in 2005, officials said. But her first-quarter payment, due Feb. 1, has not been received. Hirsch describes Moor as a nice person whose problems have snowballed. "Some people belong in jail. Not Samantha Moor," he said. "You don't put people who are struggling to survive in jail."
John Lane, Mahwah's property maintenance and zoning enforcement officer, says Moor's problem is that she hasn't complied with the ordinances or the court orders that attempted to enforce them. If people comply and show an effort, he said, the township will work with them. "The ultimate goal we're looking for is compliance," Lane said. "We'd rather residents put the money toward property maintenance" than fines.
The idea of racking up thousands of dollars in fines, he said, is not unusual in the sprawling township. Going to jail over them is. In nearby Ramsey, both are unheard of. "We've never had anything that extreme," said Ramsey's zoning officer, Richard Mammone, who has been with the borough for 30 years. Most of the property maintenance complaints in Mahwah come from neighbors or other third parties, Lane said.
An enforcement officer investigates the complaint to check its validity. If the violation exists, residents are given a letter saying they have three days to comply. If they don't make the necessary changes, a second letter is issued saying the resident has one day to comply. If they still don't comply, a third letter is sent warning that a summons will be issued, he said. After that, a summons is issued every day the property owner fails to comply.
You're blaming the town? Have you ever lived next door to anyone who doesn't keep their house up? I'm sorry for her situation, but her inaction is not helping anyone, least of all herself. If she doesn't have the money, she'd best sell the house in its condition and be done with it. What do you want the Town to do?
And the masses of sheep simply walk around with blindfolds on -
And by the way, she didn't go to jail for a MESSY YARD, she went for not paying fines. That's like saying Bill Clinton was impeached for having a consensual sexual relationship. You know the answer to that one.
Wait a second...I can't believe this is FreeRepublic. Homes like that are not just eyesores, they are health and fire hazards. I just can't believe what I'm reading.
Tough - My God, the notion that everyone has a "right" of some sort to have neighbors who keep their house maintained to a level they would would is mind-boggling -
If you don't want neighbors that live like pigs....then YOU buy enough land around you so that you won't have neighbors!
The notion that Government is suppose to step in is utterly silly and ridiculous (and don't give me they are protecting us from this or that with these silly as$ laws).
"that everyone thinks they have some sort of right to have neighbors who keep their homes / yards maintained to a level they would "like"....is foolishness.
Oh my God..with freedom comes responsibility. These are rules, on the books, that she's broken. I'm speechless.
The local gov't should just take the property using imminent domain. Thanks Supremes.
I have lived next door to someone who COULD NOT keep their house up. We helped. Sweat equity, a weekend, and a loyal neighbor henceforth, who incidentally got better, whose economic situation improved, and would pass the favors on anytime. Neighborhoods used to be a lot more neighborly.
Put up or shut up!
Open up your wallet, or shut up!
"then YOU buy enough land around you so that you won't have neighbors!"
That's the same as the 'love it or leave it' mindset. Doesn't cut it, this is America ans if you live in a community that has laws, you should obey them.
Smokin's Joe, you are an honest American and still understand what this country is all about.
I'm sorry, that's not the way it works.
No where in the Constitution and none of our Founding Fathers would have thought that Gov't would be getting involved to the point of how one maintains their own homes. And then fining them (putting $$ in the Gov't hands) has some useful process.
And the "rules" she has broken are simply from Gov't growing itself to a point of where it doesn't belong.
I am mind boggled at how many people thing "Gov't" is suppose to be involved in everything.
Again, if you want to make sure all your neighbors are living accordingly to how you would like them to live....then simply buy all the property around you....enough so that you won't have neighbors.
Nah, you shouldn't have to be burdened with that cost...or that responsibility.....Lets just look to the Gov't.
Mind boggling. And all the Gov't does is "fine" these people and put more money in their wasteful budgets to boot.
Crazy. The Gov't will be dressing our kids for us in 20 years.
You can say that again. I have never in my life seen neighbors like the ones I have now. It is a "desireable" neighborhood, but I am thinking that just the plain old suburbs would be friendler than this.
Neighborhoods used to be a lot more neighborly. >>
you're right, a scout troop or church group could help too, even habitat for humanity. But in this case you are in a town with some snobs.
Agreed 100%! -
This Country is going off the deep end. The notion that the Gov't should be going around laying fines down over a situation like this is utterly mind numbing. All the Gov't has become is nothing more then a revenue enhancer for itself.
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