Trash or treasure? Town’s junk ordinance raises concerns

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jul 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-16 18:23:13-04

SHERIDAN, Mich. -- They  say one man's trash can be another man's treasure, but who gets to decide when it's actually junk?

In the small Montcalm County town of Sheridan, the decision has been made and now some argue they are being forced to fight back to keep their property.

Don Nassif, a former village commissioner in the town, said he was cited in June for vehicles parked in his yard, which the township considered junk. All but one of the four vehicles parked in his driveway have proper plates and tabs with the state.

He said the car without a plate actually belongs to his neighbor, but Nassif now works on it in his spare time as a hobby to keep his mind off his current battle with cancer. He said he's rebuilding the engine.

"It's just a project. I’ve always enjoyed working on cars," he said. “It’s always been a passion.”

Nassif said the rest of his vehicles, which includes his son's car and a classic Ford Bronco, don't move from their places often. The vehicles are kept in a driveway hidden behind his home.

“I see it as property that I’ve worked hard for and paid for," he said. "I don’t think it’s fair they can just come up with an ordinance and take away my right to own property.”

Nassif said he was cited in mid-June under a revised version of the village's existing junk ordinance that's been on the books, though rarely enforced, for decades.  But the revised ordinance wasn't re-adopted until this past Tuesday.

“I could see if I had them all taken apart creating a mess, but I think I’m a good neighbor here," he said.

The ordinance says the term 'junk motor vehicles' shall include any vehicle which is not licensed for use upon the highways of the State of Michigan and any motor vehicle, whether licensed or not, which is inoperable... for more than 14 days."

FOX 17 reached out to the village superintendent who said he had no hand in re-writing or enforcing the ordinances and could not provide any further information. He instead referred FOX 17 to several council members for comment. Only one returned our call by Thursday afternoon.

Council member Steve Scott said the citation issued to Nassif was a 'mistake' but wouldn't go into detail, instead referring FOX 17 to the village's attorney, who did not return calls for comment.

Nassif said he believes he isn't the only person living in Sheridan who has been cited for junk. Given his ailing health, he told FOX 17, he'd rather compromise with the village than fight and acknowledges the car without plates could probably go.

“I’m willing to give up my hobby, if it will make them happy," he said. "I hope they don’t have anything against pottery or painting, that’s what I’m thinking about taking up next."