Police push for resolution of drawn-out dispute on blighted property

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest Police Department issued a health and safety receivership action against resident William Dale Howard, the latest in a two-decade dispute over the reportedly dilapidated condition of Howard’s property, as well as recent trespassing claims.

“Basically, we’ve had various code enforcement officers and city officials attempting to get Mr. Howard to clean up his property in Ridgecrest Heights for the last 20-plus years, to no avail,” said Capt. Paul Wheeler. “He has resisted all those efforts.”

According to city officials, Howard’s property has long been the subject of complaints from his neighbors. When officials began responding to those complaints, they reportedly found numerous code violations, inclu-ding the presence of industrial equipment and more than 25 sea vans on the premises.

“His property meets the definition of a junkyard,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said that in 2010 the county district attorney, working in conjunction with RPD, charged Howard with 37 misdemeanors. As the case dragged on for two years, the condition of Howard’s property continued to worsen, said Wheeler.

Because Howard continued to resist the city’s effort to bring him into compliance with municipal code, Wheeler said that the former suit was dropped, and a new one was filed. “Since he won’t clean it up, we’re requesting that a judge put his property in the control of a receiver.

“This basically means that someone will seize the property, clean things up, then hold the property for the cost of the cleanup and attorney fees. If Mr. Howard does not pay, the property will be sold to recoup cost.”

Wheeler said that he hopes Howard takes advantage of the 20-some days left on the court order to clean up his property.

“We don’t want to take anything from him, we just want him to clean up his property.”

The News Review contacted Howard earlier this month regarding his candidacy for Ridgecrest City Council. He said he would not make any statements to the media until after Oct. 23. Wheeler said that he did not know of any legal significance of that date.

Story First Published: 2012-09-26