Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fifth District affirms ruling over man's city code violations

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Aug 23, 2013


The Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed a Madison County ruling in favor of the city of Alton and against a man who was cited for having long grass and junk on his property.

In its Aug. 14 unpublished order, the appeals panel determined that the lower court did not abuse its discretion when it denied defendant Michael Storey’s motion to reconsider.

Justice Thomas Welch delivered the court’s order. Justices Richard Goldenhersh and James Wexstten concurred.

“The defendant failed to present any new evidence or change in law that would have warranted a grant of the motion to reconsider,” Welch wrote.

On April 25, 2012, Mike Harvey, the city’s building and zoning inspector, inspected Storey’s property and cited him for several violations, including having high weeds and grass in excess of 10 inches, as well as having junk, trash and construction debris on his property.

He pled not guilty to the violations and appeared pro se at a bench trial that was held on July 13, 2012 before Madison County Associate Judge Dean Sweet.

During trial, Harvey testified that Storey contacted him to discuss how his property could be improved. He said that after Storey made efforts to correct the problems, the property still had violations at the time of the bench trial.

Testifying in his own defense, Storey said he hadn’t visited his property in some time and that it had been vandalized without his knowledge and as such, should not be held responsible for the trash and junk.

He also testified that photographs taken after the inspection showed he had taken measures to correct the issues.

After the close of the bench trial, Storey on July 16, 2012 filed a motion for a mistrial. Sweet on Aug. 10 issued an order that found Storey guilty of the offenses and fined him $150 for each violation.

He then filed a motion to reconsider, which Sweet denied.

On appeal, Storey made several arguments including that the city’s response to his motion was untimely, the construction equipment on his property was not in “public view” and that some of photographs submitted into evidence were unclear.

The appeals panel, however, didn’t agree with Storey’s arguments.

Among other explanations in support of the court’s decision, Welch wrote that “the city proved the violations by a preponderance of evidence.”

The court also held that Storey was not prejudiced by the late filing because the court didn’t use it in its determination and agreed with the lower court that even if vandals were responsible for the trash on the property, they did not cause the high weeds.

Saying that the city code does not provide an exemption for property owners if someone else committed the violation, Welch wrote that the circuit court was right in finding that “it was the defendant’s duty to maintain his property.”

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