America the Messy Yard Police State

Mesa sued over unconstitutional messy yard laws

Man sues and says Mesa messy yard laws unconstitutional


August 16, 2007

$50 citation spurs suit against Mesa

Lindsay Butler, Tribune

A Mesa property owner is suing the city over a $50 code compliance violation.

Julian Sanchez, who owns property at 630 S. Morris Circle, near Country Club Drive and Eighth Avenue, filed a complaint July 13 for a special action in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The lawsuit claims the property was built prior to 1980 and therefore was not subject to landscape rules enacted in the city — the basis for his violations, according to city staff.

The suit also contends enforcement of the violations was “arbitrary and capricious” and the actions of the city employees were “intentionally abusive and discriminatory.”

City code officer Charles Dewitt said he was unaware the lawsuit had been filed and that this was only the second appeal in 14 years of what he estimated to be about 1,000 citations.

“Sanchez was treated no different than all other property owners,” Dewitt said.

South Morris Circle is made of up triplex and fourplex apartments with 24 separate properties and up to 80 apartments, Dewitt said.

The code compliance department has dealt with issues along that street for 15 years, he said.

The property at 630 S. Morris Circle has had 14 code compliance cases since 2003, city records show.

Last fall, Dewitt went to the area to answer complaints of vehicles parking on the landscape and the lack of trees and shrubs on the property.

The original plans for 630 S. Morris, approved by the city on June 3, 1981, call for citrus and juniper trees and an automatic watering system, Dewitt said.

“I was reviewing the condition of the street ... I would go to some properties and there were no trees left and no shrubs left,” he said.

Dewitt sent notices to all of the property owners, including Sanchez, who eventually agreed to take care of all the violations by March 1, Dewitt said.

Dewitt returned to the property in April and the violations had not been fixed, so he issued a civil citation for $50.

By May 9, Sanchez called to say everything had been fixed and requested the citation be dismissed.

“I can’t fix a ticket, only a judge can dismiss a citation,” Dewitt said.

A hearing was held in June, and Sanchez was found responsible for the citations and assessed $300 for three violations. Sanchez said he is still extracting public information to prove his appeal.

“It’s premature for me to reveal anything,” he said in a phone interview. Mesa has not yet filed an answer to the lawsuit.


America the Messy Yard Police State