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Neglected Lakeside Property Annoys Wentworth Park Neighbors

The whole idea of property is that you have the right to do with your property what you please. But does that include the right to do nothing with it?

Residents of Wentworth Park on the north shore are unhappy with the condition of the Muilenburg property. Lake denizen Steven Kant told the Lake County Commission Tuesday that he hasn't seen signs of habitation on the property for eleven years. Well, at least not human habitation. Neighbors say there are critters living in the apparently abandoned house. Unhappy neighbors have tried to keep the brush down, but they've had enough and aren't doing any more volunteer mowing this year.

Neighbor Daryl Phelps says Muilenburgs turned down a $210,000 offer for the property. According to the Lake County property tax database, the Muilenburgs' property is assessed a bit over $1630 a year, which suggests it's valued a bit lower than my house, which is worth around $135,000. If Phelps is correct, the Muilenburgs' asking price (if they have one) is perhaps double the property's value.

Lake County has a nuisance ordinance. It explicitly declares abandoned property a nuisance, as well as non-crop/non-pasture vegetation growing higher than 18 inches. Upon complaint and inspection finding nuisance, the county issues a courtesy note, gives the owner 10 to 15 days to fix the problem, then, if there's no action, issues a Notice of Violation and gives the owner 15 days to fix it. If there's still no action, the owner can face 30 days in jail or a $200 fine for every day the nuisance persists.

In addition to the specifically enumerated nuisances, the ordinance includes this definition of public nuisance:

Unlawfully doing an act, or omitting to perform a duty, which act or omission: (1) annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others; (2) in any way renders other persons insecure in life, or in the use of property; (3) renders the ground, the water, the air, or food a hazard or an injury to human health; and in addition....

I can certainly see the sense in Condition #3 and probably Condition #2. But Condition #1 would seem to provide clear grounds for the county to shut down the Motongator Joe Music Festival, as Todd and Lori Norby's comfort and repose were clearly annoyed and injured. And if we're talking comfort and repose, well, I know a number of people who'd like to file a nuisance complaint against this blog.

A man's home is his castle. Is it still his castle, free of interference from others, if he decides to let it fall apart?


  1. Michael Black 2011.07.07

    The word "annoy" worries me. Poorly written laws are hard to enforce.

  2. matthew siedschlaw 2011.07.07

    I wish I could enforce this law on the Broadwater when I have to hear thumping music in my basement past 12am....when they have live bands.....

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