County steps up action on cleanups

Property owner jailed after failing to comply with orders

August 22, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

Six years ago, Anne Arundel County code inspectors ordered George B. Hartsuff III to get rid of the untagged vehicles, the boats, the crab pots, Arizona Iced Tea vending machine and the U-Haul trailer that sat in his front yard.

Now he's sitting in jail as his family and friends are cleaning up the Cape St. Claire property. Four large refuse bins weren't enough to haul away all the junk.

"He has tried to clean it up - it would get cleaned up, and more things would pile up and it would just get messed up again," said his wife, Sandy, who added that close friends and their three children are pitching in to clean the property. "The children miss their father - they want him home."

Hartsuff, 49, was found in contempt of court and sentenced this month to 60 days in jail after officials said he repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to sufficiently clean up his yard in the 1100 block of River Bay Drive.

"It's just come to that point," county spokeswoman Tracie Reynolds said yesterday. "This will be the cycle until the debris is cleaned."

Reynolds said the county has been stepping up efforts to enforce code violations, creating a compliance division in January to take a more active approach toward identifying and reducing violations.

More than 20 cases have gone to court this month, with violators paying $7,000 in fines.

County inspectors were tipped off anonymously to the problems on Harsuff's waterfront property in 2001.

Although they repeatedly notified Hartsuff of continued violations of county code, he hadn't been back to court since being found in contempt in September 2004.

At that time, he had been fined $10,300 and the county was given the authority to enter his property and remove the junk at his expense.

Three years passed, however, until the county picked up the issue again in January, according to court records.

Zoning inspector Helen Simpson filed an affidavit saying that the property remained in disarray. County attorneys reminded District Judge Robert C. Wilcox of the previous violations, and Hartsuff was given 30 days to make amends or face jail time.

Unable to make enough progress, Hartsuff reported to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on Aug. 6.

Wilcox said he could be released early if the property was cleaned up while he was jailed, so friends and family went to work on it. Sandy Hartsuff, 48, said a few boats and a large amount of firewood remain on the property.

Meanwhile, the Hartsuffs have moved and are renting out the property to a friend. Hartsuff and his Severna Park attorney, Christopher Flohr, have requested a court hearing in which the tenant, David Griscom, will outline how the property will be brought into compliance, court records show.

"How can he [her husband] clean it up when he's in jail?" Sandy Hartsuff said yesterday. "You can't expect someone to do it for you."

However, Hartsuff's legal troubles aren't over once his lawn is clear. He faces two trials next month, - one on charges of driving with a suspended license last summer, and another on charges of drug possession and giving false statements to a police officers, records show.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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