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Lacey's Spring resident Butch Rogers concedes his yard needs tidying, but says he inherited some of the problem and is working to rectify things.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Lacey's Spring resident Butch Rogers concedes his yard needs tidying, but says he inherited some of the problem and is working to rectify things.

The lifestyles of Lacey's Spring
Cleaning up Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, others like it,
is no easy task

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

LACEY'S SPRING — The 20-ton houseboat — 42 feet long and 14 feet wide — sits on an acre lot on Coffee Road among two houses and junk vehicles, its bow pointed toward the Tennessee River.

That's where Butch Rogers, 49, hopes to haul it in about three years, after he restores the body and installs an engine.

Many Lacey's Spring residents would like to see it on the water quicker. They consider Rogers' place and others like it eyesores. They'd like to see Morgan County officials clean them up.

Don't expect that soon.

Lacey's Spring, in the northeast corner of the county and a bridge crossing or a boat ride from Huntsville, is unincorporated.

District 4 Commissioner Stacy George, whose district includes Lacey's Spring, said residents tired of junk have three ways to get relief short of removing it themselves: incorporate and become a town, annex into Huntsville or Arab, or get self-governance — also called limited home rule — by a referendum.

"The County Commission doesn't have any power to do anything right now," he said. "The only way we can move a vehicle is if it's blocking a county road."

Rogers, a Lacey's Spring resident since 1974, doesn't disagree with those who consider his yard a blemish. Neither does his girlfriend, Kim Lemay, 26, who lives with him, or one of his daughters, Carrie Leeann Rogers, 15, a freshman at Brewer High School, or another daughter, Ruth Allen, 28, who lives in a smaller house that he recently brought onto the property.

In the last six months, Rogers has hauled about 15 junk cars away for salvage. He said a previous tenant was responsible for the junk cars.

"The yard needs cleaning up, and I work on it every day," he said. "I just moved several small swimming pools filled with aquatic plants that a former girlfriend had to the back. Because of the junk, Carrie Leeann walks to the end of the road to wait for the bus. She said she is embarrassed for it to stop in front of the house.

Although Lemay calls yard trash "tacky looking," her distaste for it comes with a caveat. She said she has sympathy for older people who "don't have anywhere to put junk. For them, I don't see anything wrong with it at all."

Walter Gersch does. He has lived in Sherbrooke Park for eight years. He cited about 20 junk vehicles that he says the county should tow.

Under present law the county cannot, said George.

'Because they can'

"All they do is bring down neighborhoods," Gersch, 66, said. "They do it because they can get away with it. The county should make a rule and people should obey it."

The Malone family, Gene, 62, his wife, Carolyn, 60, and son, Steve, 40, own G&S Automotive, a repair shop on River Loop Road. They want something done, too.

"This is a beautiful area along the river. The land is expensive and nice homes are being built," Gene Malone said. "We don't let customers' cars sit out any more than two weeks. After that, we put them inside the building."

The elder Malone, who said he spends 90 percent of his taxes in Madison County, believes that a cleaner community will come when Huntsville annexes or Lacey's Spring incorporates. He would support annexation "if they take all of Lacey's Spring and not split up families." He also would back incorporation.

His son, who has two children, feels the same. Rustyn, 17, attends Brewer High School and Alyssa, 9, attends Lacey's Spring Elementary School.

"Alyssa is young, and she is making a home for herself in this community," Steve Malone said. "I'm not opposed to incorporation or annexation, but keep us together. Annex the whole community to Huntsville."

There are opposing voices to any change from folks like lifelong residents Herbert Fields, 66, and Walter Youngblood, 64.

"If you buy a lot next to me, you know what I've got when you come. What I do on my lot is my business and what you do on your lot is your business," Fields said. "Make a choice. Come or go back where you came from."

Youngblood said, "And what we got in our yard is our business. I've got a 1957 Ford pickup that belonged to my mama. My daddy gave it to me and told me, 'Drive it until you get tired of it, then park it and keep it.' It's sitting in the front yard. That's where I parked it when it quit running. I don't see it as a distraction."

Insects or varmints that might lurk among the debris are not a problem for him. Youngblood said he puts out poison every year for mosquitoes "that the county gives me. My cats kill the rats. I raise Jack Russells. They get any that's left."

Fields said Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, discussed limited home rule two years ago at the senior center.

"That bill would have given the County Commission control of junk vehicles, trash and mowing grass," Fields said. "But the commission didn't want it. People ought to cut grass when they get ready."

George said limited home rule "is not a good bill, and that for practical purposes doesn't work because the county attorney would have to go out and enforce the law on a case-by-case basis. It would be a lawyer's paradise, but a taxpayer's nightmare. We'd have to hire a whole new department to try to enforce it. That's why I'm opposed."

Meanwhile, Rogers, dreaming of leaving trash behind and cruising the Tennessee, toils at transforming his yard. During recent weeks, he has hauled off the rest of the junk vehicles, accentuating the monstrous houseboat.

"I'm burning a lot of trash, too," he said. "I want a sign in my yard that says, 'Neighborhood Beautification Award.' "

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