Unlike many rural areas that have a plethora of zoning and building violations, most properties in Three Rivers have the proper permits that ensure safe occupancy. But, according to Dennis Lehman, the County of Tulare’s building and housing manager, there are always some people who, for whatever reason, choose to ignore the law.
In Three Rivers, there have been two residential properties that have been receiving the on-going attention of county inspectors.
Vines property— The more visible of the two is the house located at 42903 Sierra Drive.
Lehman said county officials have been more than fair in the treatment of the property owner, Jim Vines. Vines has repeatedly promised to clean up the property and remodel the house to meet code requirements.
“We’ve bent over backwards trying to help Mr. Vines,” Lehman said. “I’m not in the business of putting people in jail over property violations.“
Lehman said there comes a time when all the promises and the excuses have to stop. The last straw for county officials occurred after a January structure fire made the house uninhabitable.
“After the fire, SCE turned off the electricity and there were complaints that sewage was being discharged illegally,” Lehman said. “A grandson told us he had moved onto the property to help remodel the house, and then we received a complaint that he was living in a former chicken coop with his four daughters.”
The chicken coop with an illegal woodstove has since been removed.
A task force of county personnel showed up Friday, Feb. 2, including representatives from Adult Protective Services and Child Support Services. One female adult occupant was so frail she was transported via ambulance to the hospital.
County inspectors posted the property for non-occupancy. The property owner had one week to correct the violations and cannot occupy the dwelling until county inspectors certify that it is safe.
The process now is a six-month waiting period to see if the violations are corrected. If not, and after the property is researched for liens or any other title restrictions, it can then be condemned and razed.
McDowall property— This property, located at 42858 North Kaweah River Drive and owned by Stan McDowall, is also in process with a non-occupancy order. Where the Vines house remains a civil matter, in the recent past McDowall has had criminal charges against him and is awaiting the outcome of his most recent case: felony possession of a firearm and misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine.
McDowall has reportedly chosen to ignore the non-occupancy order. His response has been to file a lawsuit and name the county inspector as a defendant.
Lehman said he appreciates the cooperation of the Three Rivers community with correcting these violations. The process begins with a complaint, he said.
To register a complaint, the county’s violation phone lines are: Building (559-624-7060) and Zoning (559-624-7100).