A municipal court judge on Monday ordered a North Atlanta developer to pay a $1,000 fine, plus court costs, related to city code violations stemming from two construction trailers and other debris left in an undeveloped lot in Inman Park.
The hearing — which lasted less than five minutes — marks a turning point for residents of the Inman Station townhouses subdivision on DeKalb Avenue and homeowners on Haralson and Degress avenues.
Some of the homeowners have been complaining to Atlanta City Hall about the lot owned by Garland Fink for the last 10 years.
In fact, the trailers — which were removed last week — had been there so long, that kudzu vines had threaded their way through cracks in the metal and birds used them for nesting sites, residents said.
Fink, who was charged with two counts of violating Atlanta's commercial code, pled "no contest" to the charges. The penalty was $500 per violation, not including court costs.
In his explanation to Judge Barbara A. Harris, Fink acknowledged the trailers had been there for a decade, but that they were there as part of an unfinished project.
Fink, who has built 300 homes in the metro area, including the Inman Station subdivision, said he was a victim of a bad real estate market.
"They're part of a development that I intend to continue on that site. However, the development has been delayed, as you know, because of the real estate market."
Ultimately, he intends to build six duplexes on the parcel.
Because of the pending code violations, he said he gave the trailers for free.
"The trailers, in order to meet this deadline, I had to give away full of material which cost me many more thousands than this fine is," Fink said.
He added that others were dumping illegally on the property.
Asked later if he knew who was doing the dumping, he told East Atlanta Patch he didn't, but added it was the reason he put up a temporary, wrought iron fence to secure the property. He said it cost $13,000 to erect the fence.
But Elizabeth Keathley, one of several nearby homeowners who has logged complaints with city code enforcement officials, said while the trailers are gone, a mess remains.
"The lot is still overgrown, there's trash everywhere and kudzu everywhere," Keathley, who was at the hearing, later told East Atlanta Patch.
Keathley, whose home in the Inman Station subdivision is closest to the open lot, said it remained littered with toilet seats until Tuesday afternoon.
"He always blames it on somebody else," she said, adding she will continue to log code violations with city officials.
The row in Inman Park underscores what's essentially a citywide problem. In recent weeks, code enforcement officials have been going to various neighborhood groups, urging residents to call with complaints.
"I think it's ridiculous that it took as long as it did," she said, but given the fines the judge imposed on other code violators Keathley thought it was fair.
Despite the complaints filed with city code enforcement officials, Fink disputes the characterization that the neighborhood is upset.
"Nobody is complaining about it except her," he said, referring to Keathley. "It's become her mission in life to give me as much aggravation as possible."