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'I’m afraid I’ve moved into a rat-infested neighborhood;' trash piling up in St. Stephens creates concern among nearby homeowners

'I’m afraid I’ve moved into a rat-infested neighborhood;' trash piling up in St. Stephens creates concern among nearby homeowners

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Three doors down and across the road from Mary Nalley’s home, a pile of trash has grown and grown.

In front of and next to her neighbor’s house, dozens of bags of waste pile up. A wicker chair, a tan couch, a white side table and more pieces of old furniture are rotting in the rain and sun.

In the front yard, a plastic bin, a cooler and a shopping cart also are filled with waste.

The smell from the trash wafts through the neighborhood, filling time spent in Nalley’s backyard garden or open-air porch with a putrid stench. Nalley moved to the neighborhood several months ago to retire.

She and her neighbors worry most about the potential for animal or bug infestations in the neighborhood.

“I’m afraid I’ve moved into a rat-infested neighborhood,” Nalley said.

The owner and resident of the house on 28th Street NE inherited it about two years ago, according to Catawba County land records. There have been problems with trash piling up, but this summer the issue escalated, Nalley said. An in-ground pool is filled with trash, she said. The lawn is covered in debris including clothes, wrappers, plastic containers and toys — such as a worn-down stuffed Elmo doll. Garbage covers the driveway and creeps onto the front porch.

Nalley said the eyesore has disrupted the otherwise quaint neighborhood. “It’s a wonderful neighborhood,” Nalley said. “It’s brought the whole street down.”

One neighbor is moving from her home of more than two decades just to get away from the trash, Nalley said.

The neighborhood has complained to Catawba County about code violations, but little has changed, Nalley said. Catawba County would not comment on the situation because it is an active case, Catawba County Marketing and Communications Director Amy McCauley said. The county does work with and educate property owners to help them fix violations and avoid penalties, McCauley said. Typically, the county investigates complaints of code violations. If a violation is found, the county sends a letter to the property owner to explain the violation and gives a deadline to fix it.

If the property owner does not make contact with the county or correct the violations, a notice of violation is sent and the owner is fined $50. Another $450 fine is put in place if the owner still does not fix the violation. If still nothing happens, the case is sent to the county’s legal department.

The legal department again tries to work with the homeowner to avoid going to court, which is a last resort.

In the case of 28th Street NE, the property owner said he is working with the county to get the property fixed. He plans to sell the property as well, he said. He declined to share his name for the story.

Nalley is doubtful anything will change. “They’re not doing anything,” she said.

Even if the property is fixed, she and other neighbors worry the trash will just pile back up, she said. The neighbors have tried to help clean up the house before, but the yard was filled with trash again shortly after, Nalley said.

The neighbors worry not only about their quality of life and the potential for infestations but also their home values. “Every day the situation is getting worse,” Nalley said.


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