On one recent Monday morning, Brendan Love went from pleasantly surprised to pissed off in 10 minutes.
"If someone is going to use your neighborhood like a toilet, you really have to stay on them," he said.
Love's home on the 100 block of Murray Avenue in Durham is adjacent to an illegal dumpsite owned by John Tran. The Indy reported in March that the vacant lot contained X-ray machines, empty syringes and other garbage from a former veterinary clinic. The City of Durham had inspected the property in January and again in February, and found veterinary waste piled in the brush behind a building that had housed the Bragtown Veterinary Hospital at 2911 N. Roxboro St. After the Indy's inquiry, Durham officials gave Tran 10 days to clean up the property or face a lien, a legal hold preventing sale or transfer of the property. According to recent tax records, the house and land are valued at $147,000.
One week after the March 27 Notice of Violation, Love says he was glad to look out his window and see a Caterpillar truck was clearing the brush and removing debris from the lot. This week, though, after the weekend rain, Love found needles and broken glass left behind and compacted in the dirt.
"(Tran) scooped the obvious mess, but it's still pretty disgusting," Love said as he parsed through the soil and uncovered a vial full of liquid.
Closer to the vacant building, Love found a trailer brimming with junk including open, unused paint cans surrounded by syringes.
Love subsequently sent a flurry of emails to Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services (NIS).
"I am going to be very disappointed if (Tran) is able to ignore this problem and skate off with no penalty besides a bill for someone else cleaning up his mess," he wrote.
NIS Assistant Director Rick Hester says the department will contact Tran again this week; Hester assured Love in an email that "we are going to take care of it."
"If he doesn't clean it up, we'll clean it up and we'll put a lien on the property," Hester said in an interview Tuesday. "He cleaned up a lot of that stuff, I understand. We just have to go back out there and show him again what he's got to do." Hester said NIS went to the site Tuesday and found "a very small amount of medical waste." Officials contacted Tran, who is out of the country until May 2, and will issue another Notice of Violation on Wednesday. NIS will walk the property with Tran upon his return and make sure he removes all trash, Hester said.
Records show Tran has been subject to liens three times. In 2010 he faced an $11,740 federal tax lien in Wake County Superior Court. He was summoned to Sacramento County Court in 2001 when he owed $4,633 in California taxes. California tax collectors also placed a lien on him in 1994 in San Joaquin County Court for $5,393 in arrears.
Tran did not answer several calls to his cell phone, which does not have voicemail.