Aldermen hear report on vehicle ‘eyesores’

Published 3:03 pm Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Columbia Board of Aldermen on June 5 heard a report about the collection of motor vehicles at Oakes Service Center on Scuppernong Drive.

Town manager Rhett White stated that Billy Oakes told him that most of the vehicles on his property, which extends along the south side of Scuppernong Drive from Broad Street to Road Street, are waiting to be worked on.

Some were repaired months ago, but the owners have not returned to claim them, Oakes reportedly said.

Vehicles marked Whitecap Linen Service are to be fixed later when directed by the owner; they’re on an odd schedule, White reported Oakes as saying.

White told the aldermen there are 60-plus vehicles on Oakes’s site, “many without license or insurance.”

“We need an ordinance to define junkyard,” White told the governing board after handing the aldermen a chapter of the town code dealing with abandoned vehicles. It does not address the conditions he described at Oakes Service Center.

Town attorney Dwight Wheless was absent on account of illness, and the board took no action on White’s suggestion to initiate a junkyard ordinance.

White also presented a document referring to the state’s Junkyard Control Act (G.S. 136-141 to 136- 155).

That statewide statute provides that “Any establishment or place of business upon which six or more unlicensed, used motor vehicles which cannot be operated under their own power are kept or stored for a period of 15 days or more shall be deemed to be an ‘automobile graveyard’ within the meaning of this Article.”

It further defines an automobile graveyard as a junkyard.

The state law prohibits junkyards “within 1,000 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of any interstate or primary highway,” unless screened from view of passing motorists or located in an industrial zone.

Scuppernong Drive is also U.S. Route 64, a primary highway, and Oakes Service Center is in the town’s highway commercial zone.

Violation of the state’s Junkyard Control Act is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and each day the violation continues is a separate offense.

Enforcement of the Junkyard Control Act is the duty of the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The act also authorizes NCDOT to acquire a junkyard by purchase, gift, or condemnation. However, Columbia and Tyrrell County officials could easily oppose a state agency acquisition because they collect taxes on Oakes’s property while the state is exempt from such assessments.