City administrator says code enforcement must follow state law on junk vehicles

The Bug sported blue paint and "flower power" decorations several years ago.

The Bug sported blue paint and “flower power” decorations several years ago. Photo courtesy of the Junkyard Dog.

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Glen Rose City Administrator Ken West said Friday that a state law covering junk vehicles prompted local code enforcement action on the painted Volkswagen “Bug” in front of the Junkyard Dog building off the downtown square.

West said that Ray Moody, the city’s code enforcement officer, issued a written warning of code violation after determining the Volkswagen Beetle, which has no engine and is being used as a planter, fit in the category of a “junk vehicle.”

“Ray is just going by state law and city ordinance,” West said.

Moody had left his office for the day and could not be reached for comment.

The Texas Transportation Code defines a “junked vehicle” as a vehicle that does not have an unexpired license plate attached to it, does not have a valid motor vehicle inspection certificate and is “wrecked, dismantled or partially dismantled, or discarded.”

The definition also covers a vehicle that is “inoperable” and has been inoperable for more than 72 consecutive hours, if the vehicle is on public property, or 30 consecutive days if the vehicle is on private property.

“That particular VW certainly fits in that classification,” West said.

The previous owner of the building and the Bug in 2004 went before the Glen Rose City Council on the issue, which classified the Bug as a “work of art,” West said. At that time the Bug was painted purple with colorful flowers and was placed in the side yard of the Petals retail shop. It became a popular spot for tourists taking photographs.

The building was sold in 2005 to Michael Cockerham, whose wife, Deidra, operated the Junkyard Dog retail shop there. She had painted the Bug red with black spots and the passenger compartment held plants and flowers. Later the Bug was painted blue with “flower power” designs.

When the Junkyard Dog combined into the Soul to Soul shop on the downtown square, the metal building was leased to the Capt’n Jax Restaurant, which painted the Bug dark brown.

Deidra Cockerham has since repainted the Volkswagon a creamy color with sparkles and a black chandelier motif. The Junkyard Dog has not yet reopened in the building.

West said the city’s intention in issuing the warning about the vehicle was not to upset anyone, but to comply with state law.

“The thing is, either people want code enforcement or they don’t,” West said. “When they didn’t have it before, people were complaining. Now that we’re doing it, people are complaining.

“We’re not trying to ‘make waves,’ we’re just trying to make the city look better,” West added.

A similar controversy came up in San Marcos municipal court in 2008. A four-door sedan parked on the side yard of a local business called Planet K was painted by artists and filled with soil and cacti. The VIN number was not visible.

The City of San Marcos Municipal Court found that the vehicle did not have a license plate, a motor vehicle inspection certificate and it was partially dismantled and not operable.

The court found that it was a junked vehicle under a city ordinance and declared the vehicle a “public nuisance.” If the vehicle wasn’t removed by the owners, it could be removed by the city, the court ruled.

To read more about that case and state rulings, see the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center report: http://www.tmcec.com/public/files/File/Course%20Materials/FY09/Prosecutors/Quittner%20-%20Junk%20vehicle%20CM.pdf

The Cockerhams’ only recourse under the state law appears to be going before the Glen Rose municipal court to get a ruling. Michael Cockerham told the Current Friday morning he intended to get on the court’s calendar.

When news of the citation warning broke on Thursday, dozens of people posted comments on the Current’s and Junkyard Dog’s Facebook pages in support of letting the Bug stay.

Many of them said they considered the Bug a city landmark and hoped it would be allowed to stay.

William Pillow, a 20-year Glen Rose resident, commented today that when he tells people where he’s from, they usually recognize Glen Rose as being where the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant is located or where the Bug is.

“They say they really look forward to seeing the way she has it painted each time they come through,” he said. “And of all the things in our town, you can always hear people giving directions and using the Bug for a landmark. I know I speak for a bunch of people when I say please save the bug.”

And Deaon Johnson posted this on Friday: “Please let the bug stay, it has become a nice little tourist attraction and the locals like it as well. I drive by it everyday, I love seeing it, town folks and tourist are there a lot snapping photos, posing with the car, etc. I SAY LEAVE THE BUG RIGHT WHERE IT IS, IT HAS EARNED ITS SPOT AS A LANDMARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE THE BUG!!! WE LOVE THE BUG!!!!!”

Read other reader comments in the “Comments” section attached to this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Responses to City administrator says code enforcement must follow state law on junk vehicles

  1. Darrell Best Reply

    February 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Nice article Kathryn…Poor City Administrator West and Code Enforcer Moody, if it wasn’t for those darn old State laws, our landmark could stay, but gosh darn those State Laws, gee shucks…what a load of crap. Am I for beautifying Glen Rose, yup, always have been. So let’s start with what the City controls. Le’s fix those sidewalks that are a hazard to anyone that walks down them along Barnard street, luckily all the shops are closed on that side of the street so there aren’t any shop owners to harass….and let’s go do a few inspections over at Oakdale, let’s go look for the permits that were pulled for all the work done there…whoops, won’t find any – plus there’s no shop owners to harass there either, the city owns it…and let’s go look for the public notice that the concession stand was going to be put out for bid at Oakdale, whoops can’t find that either…those darned old pesky state laws just don’t seem to apply to the City Administrator or Code Enforcer when it comes to City business…or do they? Leave the dang Bug ALONE!

  2. Larry P. Smith Reply

    January 27, 2013 at 11:41 am

    The Garden Club wanted a unique parade float and asked if I would help with the idea. The “Bug” was purchased in Walnut Springs and Fred Middlebrook did the original “art” work – cut off the top, fashioned the border covering, installed flooring for plants/flowers, gave it several coats of paint, painted eyelashes over its headlights (changing the “Bug” from an “it” to a “she”), added a nose and a lipstick smile among other additional flourishes. She won the trophy in the parade and a suitable site for her display was selected. The photo sessions by tourists began immediately. The “Bug” no longer fits the State definition of a “junk” car and a prior City Council declared her to be a “work of art”.

    I applaud Ken West and Ray Moody in their efforts to clean up, beautify and improve the community. In this instance, it is up to City Council to get the “bugs” out of the “Bug” issue and lay it to rest.

    Thank you for allowing me to offer a little history and comment.

  3. Lori Donnell Reply

    January 27, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Leave the bug…it is art, not junk.

  4. Shirley Wood Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Leave the bug. I look forward to seeing how it is dec
    orated next.

  5. CHARLEY THOMAS Reply

    January 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    OK—IF THE TOWN NEEDS TO BE CLEANED OF “NUISANCE” VEHICLES LET’S DO AWAY WITH ALL OF THEM- NOT JUST TARGETED ONES. THERE ARE JUNK VEHICLE, TRAILERS, AND GENERAL TRASH ALL OVER TOWN. YES–WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL OF IT INCLUDING THAT ON THE PROPERTY OF “IMPORTANT” PEOPLE AND OTHER PRESENT AND FORMER CITY OFFICIALS.

    FURTHER, SPEAKING OF NUISANCES AND HAZARDS–LOOK AT SOME OF THE CABINS AT OAKDALE PARK. NOW THERE ARE HAZARDS, PARTICULARLY WHEN YOUNG CHILDREN ARE AROUND.

    I SUGGEST THE CITY REMOVE THE MOTE FROM ITS OWN EYE BEFORE TRYING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE BEAM IN THE EYES OF CITIZENS.

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