Roadside garbage a concern for some Coon Creek residents; county laws ‘vague’ on forcing cleanup

Coon Creek Road residents have tried to get some action on the load of trash dumped on the side of the road. Macon County Solid Waste Management has determined that “we can’t regulate how people live.” The trash is on private property.


Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

One neighbor is angry at another neighbor in a subdivision in the Coon Creek community in the Mill Shoals District, according to Tommy Henderson, who resides there. As a result, garbage was dumped on private property to instigate discontent, he pointed out. Thus, questions have arisen as to what is allowed and not allowed – in terms of garbage – on private property. 

Henderson offered more of an explanation about his concerns. 

“One neighbor decided he was going take a bunch of garbage around his home and dump it on the bank in front of his property, in eyesight of his neighbor’s house and other neighbors who drive by. The garbage is a terrible eye sore. And then he put up a posted sign in front of it so no one would touch it.” 

Henderson called Macon County Solid Waste Management to report that the garbage is not only unsightly, but is next to a drainage ditch, and the garbage includes wood, tires, plastic drainage pipe, plastic buckets, and more.  

“So we all have to look at it every day,” said Henderson, who has been living in the Franklin area since August 2019. 

Chris Stahl, director of Solid Waste Management Department, noted that while “rules are fairly vague,” no one can dump or store waste that will “stink, rot, attract rats,” for example. Stahl said that his office has communicated with the disgruntled neighbor who has exposed garbage for all to see, but added, “We try not to be in the middle of a neighborhood dispute. The litmus test is: is it waste, such as a rotting carcass, or is it a big pile of metal that the property owner might be planning to sell or use? We wind up running into that scenario a lot and people might just be mad at each other. If the owner said it’s not waste, it’s not waste. We do get a lot of people having stuff stored and they don’t deem it to be trash. That doesn’t fall under our purview.”

Henderson acknowledged after a representative with Solid Waste visited the neighborhood and the offending neighbor, that wood was left in the ditch by the road but garbage such as the buckets and the plastic pipes were “moved up the bank a little, but you can still see it.” 

Henderson presented his frustration to county commissioners in early August. 

“I’ve also talked to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] in North Carolina, and they told me it’s a local matter.” He added, “If people want to make their properties look like a garbage dump, I guess they can in Macon County. It’s frustrating when people don’t care about other people.”

“We do a lot of posturing and recommending,” said Stahl. “Most of the time, just us showing up results in improvements. But at some places, we are back every six months or every year. And the tough thing is, it’s hard to tell someone who is living next to this that a person’s personal property rights are sacrosanct. The bottom line is we can’t regulate how people live, even though I respect the fact that [Henderson] has to drive by that [garbage] every day.”

Anyone interested in learning more Solid Waste ordinances can visit the Macon County website. “And I am happy for people to contact me and we will take a look at it, but we can’t always give people what they want out of it. That’s just the nature of this dilemma,” said Stahl. 

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