Reader Kirk Pearce asks:
"Please help with a reference to policies and/or statutes which establish the rules for a private land owner to retain inoperable vehicles on their property, based either on their own actions or the tacit disregard for the actions of others (dumping)."
Environmental laws, zoning, littering and other statutes all regulate junk cars, with the V.I. Waste Management Authority and Department of Planning and Natural Resources playing major enforcement roles, according to several V.I. laws and officials at both those agencies.
"Our environmental enforcement officer can respond to a call if it becomes a health hazard or is deemed littering," WMA Public Information Officer Stella Saunders said Thursday. Other departments may play a role too, depending upon the circumstance, she said. "Health Department officers can also go out and give a warning, for instance if there are tires that may breed mosquitoes that cause dengue. And the Fire Department can go if there is a fire hazard."
But if junked cars are a nuisance,"It can be deemed as littering," Saunders said. "We have done that before, when neighbors complained an owner collected a lot of cars or about a shade tree mechanic’s lot," she said. If so, WMA can come speak to the owners and require them to clean up the property, she said. "If they don’t, the first citation starts at $1,000 and the second at $2,500," she said.
A multi-agency task force might address a severe situation, according to DPNR Public Information Officer Jamal Nielsen.
"Usually it would be a joint agency effort, because it could be health and environmental issue if there are cars leaking fluids into the soil," Nielsen said Thursday. "It could be a zoning issue as well, bringing in DLCA (Division of Licensing and Consumer Affairs) if it is not zoned for a junkyard or that type of business, and Fire Services if it’s a fire hazard."
If the principal problem is simply the storage of the cars, then it would be a solid waste problem, under WMA oversight, he said.
As to statutes, interpretation of the law is for legal professionals. However, for the sake of discussion, V.I. code, Title 20, section 742 says the V.I. Police Department "may take into custody and deliver to the custody and control of the Department of Property and Procurement any motor vehicle found abandoned on public or private property."
Section 745 of the same title allows the property owner to petition the VIPD "for permission to have custody of such abandoned motor vehicle taken by said Department."
Title 19, section 1552 (hh) defines "solid waste" to mean any of a wide variety of items, including "junked cars." And Title 19, section 1554 (f) says "(i)f, after due notification by the Waste Management Authority that waste material has accumulated on any property in violation of this section, and if, after a reasonable period, the owner or occupant of such property does not remove or cause to be removed the waste material, the Waste Management Authority shall cause same to be removed and shall assess the cost of removal against the tenant or landowner. If necessary the Waste Management Authority may attach a lien against the property for recovery of removal costs."
The verbatim text of the law is presented here for general information and casual discussion purposes only. There are other statutes that may apply as well, and only a licensed attorney can offer advice regarding the law.
V.I. code can be searched online here: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/vicode/