Chainsaws running through the night. Loud, foul language punctuated with gunshots. An acrid, chemical-smelling smoke that makes leaving windows open nearly impossible. A fence right on the roadway that hinders traffic when a gate is opened. Human waste and toilet paper being pushed down the creek.

These are just a few of the complaints neighbors lodged against a makeshift camping spot along Beantown Road in the Jonathan Creek area. More than a dozen nearby residents showed up at the Oct. 18 county commissioner in support of Jerry Garner, who spoke on behalf of the Dogwood Lake neighborhood.

Several neighbors gathered Sunday to outline their concerns about behavior from the campsite that they said had grown even more bold in recent weeks.

Gary Mehalick became increasingly alarmed when he saw a red laser light he suspected was from a high-powered rifle aimed at his daughter as they stood on their porch.

Then, a dog from the compound killed a cat in the neighborhood and gunshots were fired during the night.

“The worst thing is the foul language and constant smoke,” Annie Mehalick said, adding that chainsaws running through the night were a close second.

Melissa Garner showed a video of a person on the property using a stick to push toilet paper down the creek.

Residents in the Dogwood Lake community live across creek from property owned by Laurie Ann Lukas — property that is in the flood plain, has no running water other than what’s in Jonathan Creek, no sewer treatment system and no electrical power. They said they called law enforcement and fire department officials numerous times in the past year, but nothing seemed to change.

Unbeknownst to them, the issue had not escaped the attention of county officials who filed a civil suit against Lukas in July and secured a default judgment on Sept. 27 ordering the property to be cleared.

After Jerry Garner outlined the problems during the Oct. 18 meeting, Board Chairman Kevin Ensley said he was departing from the usual procedure to have County Attorney Frank Queen update the group on what’s happened with the case so far.

That’s when the group learned the details of the court order stating the property was to be brought into compliance with state codes by Oct. 27.

Ongoing problems

Queen reported he and a team of county officials, including deputies, planning office staff and Garron Bradish, the county environmental health supervisor, inspected the property on June 30 without any interference.

That information became part of the court record that Bradish testified to at the Sept. 27 hearing.

Bradish said he interviewed several of the persons on the property who reported they were full-time residents, paid monthly rent and were not temporary campers or visitors.

According to court records, violations included placing a recreational vehicle/travel trailer in the flood plain without a permit; using travel trailers as permanent residences in the flood plain; connecting travel trailers to electrical cables without approved circuit breakers and ground fault interrupters; placing garbage on the ground surface beneath tarps on site; accumulating inoperable motor vehicles, including highway scooters and repair parts on site; using prefabricated storage structures for human habitation without any facilities for sewage collection, running water sources or bathing facilities; using outdoor shower facilities with direct discharge into Jonathan Creek and connecting electrical cables to the home at 52 Pinto Place that ran across a driveway, the state highway and ground on the property.

Court documents included photographs of the site and provided violation notices dating back to Oct. 17, 2020.

In a default judgment issued on Sept. 27, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Brad Letts prohibited Lukas from placing any motor vehicles, camping facilities or electrical connections on the property that didn’t comply with the law.

He further ordered Lukas to remove all electrical connections from the house at 52 Pinto Place in two weeks or face losing electrical service to her home.

Throughout the proceeding, Lukas never responded to the certified letters notifying her of the suit, and didn’t show up for the Sept. 27 hearing.

At the Monday meeting, Queen explained that if nothing happens by noon, Oct. 27, “it becomes a very serious matter of enforcement,” and could even mean the property owner could face jail time for defying the order.

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