Residents offer proposal to clean up problem property


McCORDSVILLE — Just as county officials prepared to hire contractors to clean up a neglected property that’s drawn numerous complaints from neighbors, several residents offered to do the labor themselves.

Since 2012, employees of the Hancock County Area Board of Zoning Appeals have struggled with McCordsville resident John Stark, whose home in the 7100 block of North County Road 200W is surrounded by loose blocks of concrete, wood and trash.

Officials say Stark failed to comply with three court orders to clean up the area and faces a $4,700 bill for the county to take on the job, but he’ll be spared that expense, provided the property is up to code by the end of the month, said Mike Dale, executive director of the Hancock County Area Plan Commission. Stark said he’s tried to address the issues on his property in the past, but county officials contend his efforts weren’t enough to keep them from intervening.

Then, a group of residents stepped up to help.

Dale said he was surprised to receive a call from Amanda Phegley, a local resident who said she and several others who know Stark wanted to take on the task of making his property look nice again.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this happen,” said Dale, who’s served as director of the commission for 13 years.

Considering the board has never confronted an issue like this, there’s no precedent established as to how to collect the money, Dale said. The Hancock County Commissioners agreed to foot the bill initially, and those fees were to be recouped from Stark through fees tacked on to his property taxes.

Dale said he’s happy to spare county taxpayers from paying the bill for the cleanup, which Stark would have had until 2017 to repay.

“I certainly appreciate the willingness of the community to step up and help out,” Dale said. “I’m very glad that it’s a possibility that the county taxpayer doesn’t need to get further involved with this if it indeed works out.”

Gregg Morelock, attorney for the county board of zoning appeals, said it simplifies matters when residents collaborate with one another to sort issues out.

“Any time that property owners and neighbors can cooperate to keep the (board) from having to take enforcement action of whatever type or nature, that’s better,” he said. “We always strive for cooperation rather than being heavy handed through litigation.”

Phegley, who’s organizing the effort to clean up the property, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Stark said he knows Phegley from when he lived at Heartland Resort, a Greenfield campground, eight years ago. Phegley worked at the campground at the time.

Stark said he was pleasantly surprised to hear from her and appreciates the effort to lighten his load.

“I’m really happy they offered to help out,” he said. “I haven’t seen them in years, so I was shocked when I found out.”

Dale said he will schedule inspection of property after the Sept. 30 deadline. If it’s still not up to code, the county will move forward with its plans to hire contractors, he said.