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Trailers parked on the property of Calvary Assembly of God Church in Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Trailers parked on the property of Calvary Assembly of God Church in Decatur.

Hiding in plain sight
Semi-trailers
spur complaint

Decatur homeowner says
church's storage mars his view

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Each day a Decatur church’s eight semi-trailers greet Everett Waldrep when he steps onto his front porch to enjoy his newspaper and morning coffee.

Calvary Assembly of God owns the trailers, which are only feet from Waldrep’s Milligan Street Southwest home. Used for storage, the trailers completely block Waldrep’s view of the church, which fronts Beltline Road.

“If they moved two of them, I could see a little bit from the front porch,” Waldrep said. “Some of the weeds are 4 feet high and up to the bottom of the trailers. It’s an eyesore.”

Waldrep said the church had the trailers parked by its basketball court.

“But I guess they had too many of them,” Waldrep said. “They’ve been here ever since I moved here two years ago.”

The church property is in a commercial zone, which Building Department Director Jimmy Brothers said doesn’t prohibit semi-trailers from adorning the lot.

The trailers could be there eternally?

“Spiritually speaking, yes,” Brothers said. “If they were renting them for storage, they couldn’t do that, but as long as the trailers are rationally related to the church and its operation, there’s no problem as far as the zoning ordinance is concerned.”

Decatur, however, has a weed, junk and litter ordinance that prohibits anyone in control of residential or commercial property from storing inoperable vehicles within view of a public right of way.

The trailers don’t have current license plates. One expired in November 2001. Another has a North Carolina plate that expired in 1995.

According to the ordinance, vehicles that are not properly licensed are considered inoperable and must be “housed in an approved, enclosed, covered structure so as not to be
viewable from any street, alley or other public right of way or any other private premises.”

Councilman Gary Hammon, who represents the district, said he received a complaint on the trailers about a year ago.

“I followed up as far as I could with the Community Development Department,” Hammon said. “I was told there was nothing that could legally be done about it because it was on private, commercial property.”

The trailers face Milligan Street. City inspectors would likely have to go on church property to view the expired tags on the rear of the vehicles. But inspectors are reluctant to enter private property without probable cause.

Waldrep said his daughter, Heather Richards, told one of the pastors last year that the trailers were an eyesore and asked to have them removed.

“One of the trailer doors will open, and it’s dangerous for the neighborhood kids that come and play,” Waldrep said. “(The church) basically told her they weren’t planning on doing anything with them.”

Tony Willis, associate pastor at Calvary Assembly, said he understood the first complaint came Monday from Waldrep or his daughter.

“I know one of the family members talked to us about it,” Willis said. “With the productions we do at Calvary, we are using them for storage because it’s an expense factor. We do rent some storage at U-Store places, but it’s very costly.”

Willis said the family asked why the church doesn’t park the trailers at its new facility under development on Alabama 20 East.

“That was a good question,” he said. “It’s because we do use some of the things so often. It’s best to have them on site.”

Willis said his director of operations was out of town, attending a funeral in Louisiana, and that he would speak with him upon his return Wednesday.

“I feel like it will be rectified soon, although I can’t give a 100 percent definitive answer,” Willis said. “We want to be good neighbors and abide by city ordinances.”

David Lee, code enforcement officer with Decatur’s Community Development Department, wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.

But Michelle Jordan, director of Community Development and Planning departments, has said that although expired tags meet the city’s definition of an inoperable vehicle, the city needs another sign of being inoperable — such as flat tires — so citations have a better chance of passing legal muster.

All of the church’s trailer tires were inflated Tuesday afternoon.

Community Development has a weed, junk or liter hotline. Call 341-4963 to report potential violations.

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