MOUNT PLEASANT - Linda Ruggles says she has known little peace in the two years since she was hauled off to jail in what appeared to be the climax of a long-standing spat between neighbors.
The assortment of decorations, potted plants, lawn furniture and recyclables that occupy her driveway and spill onto her front yard continue to be a point of contention for the woman and surrounding home owners on her Longview Road cul-de-sac in the town's Candlewood subdivision. But after battling repeated complaints from code enforcement officers and her "nosy neighbors," a $480 fine and a six-day stint in jail, Ruggles said she's exhausted and just wants to be left alone.
Her need for peace and quiet, however, hasn't tempered the nagging, she said.
Ruggles recently received yet another letter from the Planning and Development Department quoting town code in an attempt to get her to clean up her yard.
Ruggles said her property is just fine the way it is, considering the letter failed to point out any specific violations.
"I've called down there several times and all (code enforcement) will tell me is 'You know what you need to do,' " Ruggles said this week while sitting at a lawn table perched on her freshly cut front yard. "They keep bothering me, but they can't tell me one thing that's wrong. I just don't understand why they won't leave me alone."
Christiane Farrell, the town's director of planning and engineering, said the letter sent by her office was "typical of how we'd handle the complaints" that come in to code enforcement.
Farrell wouldn't talk directly about any violations that Ruggles still needs to address. Generally speaking, she said, violations could consist of yards not being properly taken care of, debris left in clear view and abandoned vehicles.
Ruggles' next door neighbor, Jeff Teneyck, said he sees plenty wrong every time he steps foot outside or peers through a window overlooking the woman's property.
"She's really embarrassed us out here. I'm a taxpayer just like anyone else. I deserve to not have to live next to someone like that," Teneyck said, adding that it hurts his property value.
Teneyck, whose well-pruned hedges pose a stark contrast to Ruggles', said he's tried to get code enforcement officers to straighten out the situation, but in his eyes authorities are "reluctant to do anything about it."
The bad blood between the two neighbors prompted Ruggles to put out a no-trespassing order against Teneyck. The framed paperwork now hangs above her front door as a happy reminder of the only battle she's ever "won" against her "bullies," she said.
"Why should I have to conform to (Teneyck's) perception of what's acceptable," Ruggles asked. "My yard's cut. I come out here to weed every week. That should be enough for them."
A town code enforcement officer cited Ruggles in December 2010 for having piled packages of shingles on her home's roof and debris in the front yard and driveway. She spent six days in jail in January 2012 after failing to fix up her home or pay a $480 fine for a "clean lot violation."
"I was out of work and didn't have $500 to give to the town of Mount Pleasant because my neighbors wanted to pick on me," Ruggles said.
She threatened to sue the town and her neighbor for harassment if the dispute goes on any longer.
"I will go to jail again if it comes down to it. I have rights, but they don't seem to care about that."
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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