Public Nuisance Process
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS re: JUNK/PUBLIC NUISANCE COMPLAINTS
What is junk?
As defined by the International Property Maintenance Code adopted by Lawrence County:
Motor Vehicles. Except as provided for in other regulations, inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicles shall not be parked, kept or stored on any premises, and vehicles shall not at any time be in a state of major disassembly, disrepair, or in the process of being stripped or dismantled. Painting of vehicles is prohibited unless conducted inside an approved spray booth.
Exception: A vehicle of any type is permitted to undergo major overhaul, including body work, provided that such work is performed inside a structure or similarly enclosed area designed and approved for such purposes.
Sanitation. Exterior property and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition. The occupant shall keep that part of the exterior property that such occupant occupies or controls in a clean and sanitary condition.
Accumulation of rubbish or garbage. Exterior property and premises, and the interior of every structure, shall be free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.
As defined and governed by South Dakota state statutes:
SDCL 21-10-3 defines a public nuisance as one which affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon the individuals may be unequal.
SDCL 21-10-5 Remedies against any nuisance are:
A civil action
In cases of public nuisance only, the additional remedy of indictment or information as prescribed by statute and rules relating thereto.
SDCL 21-10-6 provides that a public nuisance may be abated without civil action by any public body or officer as authorized by law. Any municipality, county or township may defray the cost of abating a public nuisance by taxing the cost thereof by special assessment against the real property on which the nuisance occurred. If the nuisance abated is an unsafe or dilapidated building, junk, trash, debris or similar nuisance arising from the condition of the property, the municipality, county, or township may commence a civil action against the owner of the real property for its costs of abatement in lieu of taxing the cost by special assessment.
If there is a junk or litter problem on a lot in my neighborhood, who do I report it to?
You can call the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 578-2230 or the Lawrence County Code Enforcement Official at 578-3871. You will be asked to fill out a complaint form to start the investigative process. This form is also available online at: https://sd-lawrencecounty.civicplus.com/FormCenter
If I complain about junk on a person’s property, why doesn’t the County come and get it?
The proper disposal of junk and litter on an individual’s property is the responsibility of the property owner, not the County.
When I complain about junk on a person’s property, why does it take so long before the junk is removed?
There are several reasons for the perceived delay in the removal of junk:
Lawrence County relies on the owner to remove any junk on his/her property. The County will not come and get that junk, which is what some complaints feel will occur.
An inspection must be conducted by a Code Enforcement official to verify that the complaint is valid. Then, the enforcement process begins.
Lawrence County follows the International Property Maintenance Code which requires legal notice and due process of the parties allegedly in violation. Making legal contact with the alleged violators, then waiting the required amount of time for the junk to be removed could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
If somebody filed a complaint against me because of a neighborhood dispute, do I still have to clean up my property?
Every complaint that is made by a citizen MUST be investigated by a Code Enforcement Officer, regardless of the reason for registering the complaint. If the Code Enforcement Officer finds the complaint to be valid, the enforcement process will begin. If the complaint is not a violation of the applicable County Codes, the matter is considered, ‘invalid.’
If I receive a County letter about junk and litter on my property, when does the fine start running?
There are no fines initially assessed when you receive a letter that you have junk and litter on your property. Lawrence County’s objective is VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE. If voluntary compliance is not achieved within the time limit stated, the matter will be forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s Office for prosecution. If the alleged violator stays in touch with the Code Enforcement Official, explains any extenuating circumstances, and works steadily (even if slowly) towards compliance, then the matter is not normally referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
If I want to find out who complained about me, can I find out?
Under the Public Records and Files laws of South Dakota, all information given to staff is a matter of public record, and it must be disclosed if the information is requested. If a citizen wants to find out who made a complaint, he/she should make a public records request.
Can I file a complaint anonymously?
Anonymous complaints will not be accepted. A complaint form must be filled out to start the investigative process. The complaint form is available online or may be picked-up in person at the Sheriff’s Office or Planning and Zoning Office. Frivolous or unfounded complaints will not be processed or investigated.
How many vehicles can be on a person’s property?
As long as the vehicles are operable and currently licensed, there is no limit to how many can remain on the property.
If I cannot afford to remove my junk vehicles, who can I call to get this done?
Some private salvage yards and towing companies may be willing to remove vehicles if proper ownership is provided.
If I make a junk complaint, is there a possibility I will be called to testify in court?
Yes. If you make a junk complaint and the matter ends up in court, you should expect that you will be called as a witness to testify against the party allegedly in violation.