Austintown man fined $5K for zoning violations
By Elise Franco
Judge David A. D’Apolito fined township resident Robert Elko $5,000 after he failed to comply with a court order to clean up his property.
Elko, who resides at a home on
Selkirk Avenue, was found guilty in July of violating township zoning laws by storing garbage, debris, vehicles and large appliances on his property, which includes a vacant house, at 3816 Kirk Road.
He was given 90 days to clean up the land, and during his sentencing hearing Wednesday, he told Judge D’Apolito, of Mahoning County Area Court in Austintown, he had complied.
After looking at various photos of the property, taken Wednesday morning by township Zoning Inspector Darren Crivelli, the judge said that piles of wood and gravel covered with tarps, an old air conditioner and a nonoperational boat left on the property proved Elko didn’t meet the court’s requirements.
Elko was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine within 30 days and to finish the process of cleaning the Kirk Road property.
“I don’t know how you can say this is clean,” Judge D’Apolito said. “For whatever reason, you don’t seem to take this seriously.”
“I would hope having gone through the court process he’ll see this is serious and clean the property and be a good neighbor,” Crivelli said.
Prosecutor Ken Cardinal recommended the judge order Elko to pay $100 per day dating back to Dec. 9, 2009, when the case was filed with the court.
Judge D’Apolito said that because Elko had cleaned up about 80 percent of the property, he wouldn’t impose the nearly $30,000 fine recommended by Cardinal.
“I don’t know why I have any compassion for you, but I do,” Judge D’Apolito said.
Elko disagreed with the judge’s assessment as he flipped through the photos.
“In these photos, most of this stuff is normal things on a property,” he said.
Crivelli said Elko was first issued a notice in September 2009 about the large amount of debris on the property.
He was issued a notice in October 2009 to remove a backhoe that was left in the yard, which Crivelli said also violates township zoning laws.
“The charges were filed [Dec. 9] after I sent four letters, and the township zoning office gave him every opportunity to clean up the debris,” Crivelli previously said.
He said Elko also was offered a plea deal in May to pay a $150 fine and clean up the property, which he refused.
Crivelli said though the property is about 80 percent cleaned, items left in the yard easily could have been moved into a detached garage near the house.
“There is still a good amount of junk and debris, and it shouldn’t be stored in an exposed manner,” he said.
Crivelli said he plans to give Elko about two weeks to finish cleaning up the land before he issues another citation.