America the Messy Yard Police State

Tempe cracks down on landowners

Messy yard cops charge man almost $10,000 to remove brush from his home.


City crews haul brush piles from Becker property
By Jonathan Athens, Tribune
July 18, 2006

North Scottsdale resident Henry Becker vowed to continue fighting the city, even as maintenance crews on Monday morning crossed onto his property to remove numerous brush piles.

“If it wasn’t so pathetic, it’d actually be funny,” Becker said, summing up his most recent legal battle with Scottsdale.

Maintenance crews, hired by the city and operating under a court-ordered abatement, began gathering and hauling away piles of brush at Becker’s undeveloped 95 acres at Pima and Happy Valley roads.

The city will hand Becker the $9,500 bill to have the brush piles removed, said Neighborhood Services director Raun Keagy.

Scottsdale officials have said the brush piles constitute an imminent fire hazard, given the high temperatures and this being fire season in Arizona.

“Any flick of a cigarette out the window and ‘poof,’ ” Keagy said.

From his residence in Flagstaff, Becker told the Tribune: “I did the community a favor by fire prevention, by trimming the trees to begin with.”

If Becker fails to pay the bill, Scottsdale will place a lien against Becker’s property, Keagy said, adding he expects the removal work to be finished Wednesday.

Becker’s property is known for its numerous political signs, colorful candy cane poles and unusual outdoor structures. Becker calls the displays “commissioned works of art” but the city calls them “blight and debris.”

The clash culminated in a more than five-hour hearing late last month before Scottsdale City Court Judge Monte Morgan. The judge ruled in favor of the city, ordering Becker to remove the brush piles and outdoor displays by this past Saturday or the city would take action.

The city last week told Becker’s attorney it will postpone removing the outdoor displays for two weeks in order to give Becker a chance to remove the outdoor displays on his own accord or challenge Morgan’s ruling.

Becker’s attorney last week asked Morgan to consider an appeal and postpone the brush removal but Morgan upheld his original ruling. In response, Becker’s attorney on Friday filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court, asking that court to overturn Morgan’s decision.

A hearing date has not been set.

Becker vowed to continue fighting Scottsdale.

“Yes, yes, yes. Definitely. I’m not wrong,” Becker said, adding he will not remove his outdoor displays.

Becker said the city’s policies are an assault on private property rights and he characterized the city’s leadership as being “dictatorial.”

Becker said he is uncertain whether he will pay the estimated $9,500 bill the city intends to send him for the brush removal.

Contact Jonathan Athens by telephone at (480) 970-2342.


America the Messy Yard Police State