Two shop owners in Roanoke, Virginia have struggled to comply with city ordinances for storing motor vehicles outdoors, the Roanoke Times reports.
Mike Dudley, owner of Roanoke Auto Services Center, and Mike Ferguson, owner of Christian Car Repair, have been charged with violating ordinances for storing motor vehicles. They were arrested on October 2 and are pleading not guilty. They will face trials for criminal misdemeanors on January 31.
When they were first made aware of the problem, they began working to comply by clearing out vehicles. It can be difficult, though, when customers either don’t pay for the work done or simply never return to pick up vehicles. The processes to take care of these situations do exist, but are time-consuming.
City staff said they met with Dudley at his shop to discuss the violation and how to remedy it. But Dudley has said that code enforcement officers have not provided details on how to remain compliant, instead just reminding him that he is in violation.
Dudley’s business has been operated since 1986, and Ferguson has run his shop since 1993. As longtime members of the community, they’re more than willing to try and comply with the ordinance.
“They handcuffed us, took us into the police station,” Ferguson said. “All they had to do was issue a subpoena. It ain’t like we’re going to run off to another state.”
In addition, Dudley and Ferguson’s lawyer passed away during the predicament, and city hall has experienced a turnover among its zoning inspectors.
Dudley has received a charge for criminal misdemeanor junkyard violation. Ferguson has been charged with it three times, for each parcel he owns; though he believes one of his parcels is zoned in a way that should exclude it. Dudley, who sells gas, believes the same could apply to him too.
Other shop owners in the area watch on, knowing that it could just as easily be them who is targeted next. Walter Williams at the nearby Boxy Swedish Car Center has been a shop owner for over 30 years and always asks code enforcement to provide two letters: one for himself and one for his lawyer.
“When the city decides they want to latch on to you, they will do that,” said Williams. “It’s kind of a catch-22, you don’t never know what it is the city wants to do or when they want to do it.”