Neighbors fed up with hoarders' yard

Orange County neighborhood wants action from county to clean up hoarders' yard

One Orange County neighborhood claims they are being held hostage by hoarders—and they told News 6 they want the county code enforcement to do something about it.

Neighbors told investigative reporter Eryka Washington they are fed up with all the appliances, junk and debris on the Avonwood Court property-- and said the pile keeps getting larger. 

[WEB EXTRAS: Orange County Code Enforcement | Seminole County | Volusia County | Osceola County | Brevard County | Marion County | Flagler County  | VIDEO: Interview with therapist | News 6 visits home ]

Since 2008, the homeowner has refused to clean up or remove any items from his property, despite being fined and having liens placed on his home. 

"The smell is horrible,” said neighbor Mary Smith. “There are rats, roaches and mosquitoes. It’s a health hazard. There is so much stuff in that yard that is so unsafe.”

When a News 6 crew drove by, everything from appliances to a boat could be seen.

"I live across from them, and every day they get into their little van, go somewhere and something else appears," said Lori Lewis, who lives across the street.

According to Orange County Code Enforcement, the homeowner, William Frederick Zorn has accrued $2.5 million in fines and liens.

"Why are the rules OK for us but not them?," ask Smith.

Bob Spivey of Orange County Code Enforcement said their hands are tied.

"The state constitution prohibits us from foreclosing on a homestead property," said Spivey.

Spivey said because homestead properties are the homeowners' primary residence, the county is not allowed to force people out of their homes.

"The law that we have is a balancing act people have property rights," said Spivey.

That's left this community feeling helpless.

"I don't understand why Orange County has let this thing slide as long as it has,” said neighbor Jim Diggs. “Orange County needs to act they need to understand what Seminole County and follow the same path.”

Seminole County had a similar case, but they have different ordinances.

The county fined homeowner Alan Davis $1.9 million in fines, cited the property with three nuisance violations.
1.         Trash/debris
2.         Junk vehicles
3.         Uncultivated vegetation/objectionable manner

Davis was even sent to prison for four years.

But just this past September, Seminole County removed 35 tons of trash, costing taxpayers nearly $10,000, which again is billed to Davis.

Orange County does have a code provision that would allow them to clean up the Avonwood Court property and take all the stuff to a landfill. But Spivey says that's probably not a permanent answer.

"Our experience tells us no sooner that we go out and spend $10,000 to $15,000 on property like this 6 months later we'd be out there having to do the same thing again," said Spivey.

Therapist Denny Kolsch agreed.

"They’re going to start over," said Kolsch.

He explained hoarding is a mental health disorder, and cleaning up the property won't heal the hoarder.

"People don't choose it,” said Kolsch. “The whole, maybe neighborhood, comes to them and says, ‘Hey, there is an issue here,’ and they don't see it as an issue. They see it as their stuff that's valuable, they don't want to get rid of.”

But tell that to neighbors on Avonwood Court, who just want a break.

"We don't know what else to do because Orange County will not help us,” said Smith.

"It really is very difficult for us to have to sit here and accept a situation where someone is flouting our ordinances and really impacting the quality of life of people who deserve better," said Spivey.

Spivey said Code Enforcement is open to consider every option on the table including cleaning up the property.