‘Yard art’ isn’t junk, man tells Wenatchee

WENATCHEE — The various vehicles and machinery strewn about Gene Duell’s yard are not junk, but rather operational or decorative items, and he wants to leave the assortment of lawn mowers, tires and bricks on his Wenatchee lawn, despite city concerns over a clean yards rule.

An on-going fight between Duell and the city of Wenatchee reached a new level this week when the city filed a lawsuit in a Chelan County court with the aim to force Duell to clean up.

But Duell is not budging, vowing to fight the city in court.

“If they’re going to sue me then they’ll find out what I’m going to do,” he said indignantly. “They don’t pay my taxes, my insurance, and they think they are going to freely take my property, my stuff? No!”

The Wenatchee World reported that the city inspected 1,200 properties this year as part of a revitalization initiative on the south of end of town.

“In the past, we have just fined people,” said Cliff Burdick, Wenatchee’s inspection services manager. “But we have no way of collecting the fines and the mess usually doesn’t get cleaned up. This is the route we chose to ensure that the property gets cleaned and the taxpayers get paid back for it.”

Burdick said Duell is the only owner receiving a lawsuit, which would force the man to allow a city crew to clean up his yard. The city, then, would charge him for the cleanup.

“We have sent several notices to Mr. Duell and not only has he not complied but it appears that even more junk has been added to his property,” Burdick said.

The lawsuit states that a May 2 inspection of the property found numerous vehicles in various stages of disrepair, tires and other piles of debris. The Duells were sent a notice of violation that week, but did not respond to the letter, the lawsuit states. A second notice was sent on May 27, asking the Duells to appear before the city’s Code Enforcement Board.

Duell attended the hearing on June 22 but refused to answer any questions from the board, the suit states. He told the board that the items were “yard art” and not junk, the court document states.

On his yard, Duell keeps a truck, two cars and a delivery van, as well as 1955 and 1956 Chevy pickups, another pickup, an old farm tractor and a flatbed trailer loaded with lumber parked behind his house.

The front yard also had five snowblowers, as well as push, gas and riding lawn mowers, numerous tires, piles of bricks, a dog house and other parts and pieces of machinery.

Duell pointed out that an old railroad tie was a gift, and an old head from an engine was vintage. Some of the items were arranged in the front yard, including a snowblower sitting on top of a raised flower bed and another sitting in a ring of river rocks. Tires were sticking upright out of the dirt where he placed them.

Duell admitted that he placed the tires in the front yard after the city’s May inspection to irritate city officials.

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