Are a toilet and water too much to ask?

My every-fortnight-column in today’s N&R might make you go “eeeeeuuuwwww”.  Well join the crowd.  My neighbors and I have been living with it for at least five years and we’re pretty tired of it.

After my editor, the esteemed Allen Johnson, read it for the first time he asked me something like, “… is this for real?”  I assured him it is.  Apparently still skeptical, he emailed me with this, “One question: are you absolutely sure this house has no working toilet. How do you know?”

For verification, I sent him this spiffy link (fixed link – click “continue”, then once site loads click on ”active cases”) to ongoing cases within the city inspections department into which I suggested he put in an address, like… say… “111″ in the street number field and then ”Cypress” in the street name field and see what comes up.  What you will find are only the latest violations and condemnation proceeding… there have been others over the years I assure you.  If you want to check on when a property’s water was turned off, you can go here to find that out.

Even though the city has the property listed as “vacant”, it is not.  I know this because the house is across the street from ours and is occupied by the owner at least six nights out of every seven.  I’ve seen the police go by at all hours when they notice someone apparently living in the condemned structure.  I guess the owner tells them he is working on the house, which is legal, even at 3:00 in the morning… and they leave and let him go back to sleep work.  Truth is, there hasn’t been any construction going on over there for a long, long time no matter the time of day.  The owner pretty much has the city snowed, and, from what I’ve heard lately, he has them running scared as well.  I hear he has recently leveled the charge of “harrassment” toward the city inspections department.  Puleeeze.

Anyway… I just thought everyone ought to know what we’ve been putting up with over here, like, for-friggin’-ever .  Here’s the column….


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By David Hoggard


The neighborhood known as the Aycock Historic District is a ‘live and let live’ kind of place.  Having made it my home for the past 20-odd years, I can speak with authority when I tell you our neighbors are a delightfully accepting lot.  Diverse in every imaginable way, Aycock is a pot that isn’t so hot that it melts away differences when folks move here.  No, we keep the pot just warm enough to meld ethnicities, eccentricities, and lifestyles into a tasty, familiar and welcoming stew.  When you walk our streets you better keep a free hand available for waving or people might think you are stuck-up or something. 

Even though being a part of the Aycock stew requires little in the way of conformity, we do have a few standards: clean up after your dog, no mowing before 10:00a on Sundays, keep religion and politics out of ‘porch party’ conversations … you know, that kind of thing.  Another thing we think is important:  every house should have running water and a working toilet.

Believe it or not, an occupied house very near mine doesn’t have either… hasn’t had for several years.  The folks down at city hall, who should know about such violations of the minimum housing standards, do.  They say their hands are tied, but in reality, when someone knows how to manipulate the system, the city can be played like a fiddle.

Seems as though if you have a mind to live in house without a toilet here in Greensboro, all you have to do is acquire a building permit that indicates you plan on installing one… someday… and the city will leave you be.  Even if your house is condemned due to numerous code violations as the one on my street is, you can continue to live in toilet-less bliss.

Over the years, this house has had many visits from the city inspectors.  Responding to complaints from neighbors, the place has been condemned more than once.  I have seen yellow ‘condemned’ signs get pasted on the property only to see the owner remove them the next day.  The owner thumbs his nose and stays one step ahead of our overworked inspections department.

I have to wonder what poorer, less politically connected parts of Greensboro must go through with substandard housing if a more upscale neighborhood like Aycock can’t get a single house fixed up with a toilet and running water.  After scores of complaints from neighbors in the vicinity of this substandard house, the city seems to have become paralyzed in finding a way to keep the owner/occupant from doing “his business� on the property somewhere other than in a toilet. 

Now I understand about property rights and all that, but I also understand people have a right not to live near an occupied house that doesn’t have toilet facilities.  I don’t know how widespread toilet-less houses are in Greensboro, but if there is only one, and it has remained that way for several years as this one has, there is a serious flaw in some city system that is supposed to guard against such occurrences.

Yes, we are an accepting lot here in Aycock.  But we don’t readily accept those in our midst who might be defecating in their yards.  And we don’t accept the city’s position that they can’t do anything much about it, either.  So we keep calling… and hoping that our neighbor’s house will soon have a working toilet.

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  1. Posted June 21, 2006 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Damn! And I’m complaining about the dogs in my neighborhood.

  2. LL
    Posted June 21, 2006 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    GO DAVID GO!!! Thanks for putting this out there to the rest of the world. Like you, we have a fabuous view of “chateau sans potty” from next door. Just to add to the “snowjob”, there has been a fabulous amount of yard work going on at 111 Cypress (kinda like guilding ‘sandford and sons’…except i’m pretty sure Fred had a flushing commode) that has replaced an abandonded bronco with motor hanging by a stand out front, numerous gas cans, an abandonded motorcycyle, wood piles, trash in general, etc. Kudos to the clean-up that now makes OUR yard look like the worst on the street. My only comment is this: THERE IS STILL NO RUNNING TOILET THERE!!! WHERE IS THIS PERSON GOING TO THE BATHROOM??? EEEWWWW!!! I too see him come in every night around 12-1ami-ish to leave the next day by 9ish. Believe me, when there is actually work going on there (which there once was at one time in the faraway past), we could always tell because the stereo would be blasting 24/7!

    If any of you folks out there in blogland can help us out, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t think we haven’t gone down every road we know (thanks city of GSO for backing us up…not!) to try and take care of it ourselves.

    Yes, we’re a pretty accepting kind of group over here in the ‘hood but we would prefer that you at least have facilities!

  3. LL
    Posted June 23, 2006 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    btw…i misspelled gilding in my above post. sorry.

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