CHAPMANVILLE – A Chapmanville business owner approached the town’s council Tuesday, Nov. 12, about cleaning up a property he says he has tried to get the town to clean up for more than a decade.
Jeff Justice, owner of Krist Door Service, said the town has been overlooking the “biggest eyesore” in town – a property on Ann Street near Commerce Park, where his business is located. Justice said he has approached the town about the issue for 14 years to no avail.
“Mayor and council, I’ve addressed this issue before in the past, under different regimes over the last 14 years,” Justice said, “and Chapmanville is trying to make improvements and make things better, and you all keep overlooking the biggest eyesore in Chapmanville. It’s Ann Street. Nothing’s been done.”
Justice was referring to the property of Fred Riffe, which has numerous vehicles parked on and around it. He said the county came in and put a new parking lot on the property when a new drain system was installed.
“The county came in and saw fit to put a new parking lot in for Fred when they put the drain system in,” Justice said. “I just think something needs to be done about it. Now, I’ll give them credit, they did move their motorcycle club in with the trailer and they did clean everything up and they just shoved it right back toward my place. I’ve got tractor-trailers backing in there. It’s tough. I’ve got vehicles coming in and out of there. I got customers coming in and out of there all day long – Printing Depot and my place.”
Justice told council that if something isn’t done, he’s going to take action.
“You all have asked me to be patient,” Justice said. “I think 14 years has been long enough. Now, if you all don’t start doing something, I’m going to start making some phone calls. I’ve already been told about a few things I can do to make some calls. I’m not threatening or anything, I just wish you guys would come down and clean that up or have it cleaned up a little better.”
“Well, you know that’s private property,” responded Mayor Raamie Barker.
Justice replied that it’s breaking the law “as far as a junkyard goes” and that he has vehicles sitting in front of his fence that have been parked there since the day he broke ground and moved his building in 14 years ago.
“There should be a privacy fence up, there should be a license for salvage yard, because there’s vehicles there that’s not licensed and cannot be inspected to have a sticker put on them, so there’s laws being broke there, and it needs to be addressed,” Justice said.
Barker told Justice that he needs to file an official complaint with the Chapmanville Police Department in order for action to take place. Justice asked why action can’t be taken without him filing a complaint.
“Well, that’s just it, it takes a citizen to file a complaint against another citizen for violation of the law,” Barker said.
“OK, I’m just finding this out after 14 years,” Justice responded. “You’re the first person to tell me this.”
Barker said the town can visit the property and issue a citation, but that it may not be powerful enough. Barker said he doesn’t believe Riffe drives, to which Justice quickly responded that he does. At that point, Barker suggested Riffe’s license could be taken if he doesn’t respond to a citation.
“That is probably the length of our jurisdiction would be to take his license after he would fail … I figure he would fail to come up for, you know, a hearing and say, the only thing we can take is license,” Barker said. “It usually gets them here when their license … we’ve had several, sometimes prominent people who have owed us money, and we send them a citation and they show up and pay.”
“I’ve talked to Fred about this a number of times, and I’m not welcome there,” Barker added.
“I’m lucky I’ve not been shot yet,” Justice quipped.
Barker suggested asking the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles about the matter. He suggested getting the DMV to file an injunction to require the installation of a privacy fence.
Barker said he offered to clean up the vehicles along the side of the road free of charge, but Riffe replied that the vehicles belonged to customers and not him.
“We’ll work on it the best we can,” Barker said.