MOUNT PLEASANT — Linda Ruggles spent six days in jail in January for having a messy yard. But Ruggles said her attempts to fix up her Longview Road property have satisfied neither the town nor her neighbors.
After receiving another violation notice from the town in recent days, Ruggles said she is through trying to appease those who don’t share her taste in outdoor aesthetics.
“There is nothing wrong with my yard,” she said. “If they don’t like my table and chairs, they need to get over it. If they don’t like the way I decorate my yard, they need to get over it. This is America, and I can decorate my yard any way I want.”
Ruggles, a 53-year-old photographer, said she recently received a letter from town Code Enforcement Officer Jim Palmer stating that she was in violation of town ordinances for having an unkempt yard and an abandoned vehicle on the property. They gave her until June 4 to remedy the problems or face penalties, she said.
Ruggles said her yard has been mowed within the past two weeks. Potted plants, a patio set and other items on the lawn were placed there temporarily while a contractor put a new roof on her house, she said.
Christiane Farrell, the town’s director of planning and engineering, said her office and the police department have received several complaints from neighbors about the state of Ruggles’ yard. Among other things, officials noted tire rims, metal debris, plastic containers, a kids’ pool and other materials in the yard, along with a van that has an expired license plate, Farrell said.
Town officials would prefer to work with Ruggles to resolve the problems rather than resort to citations or other sanctions, Farrell said. To that end, Palmer plans to meet with Ruggles Tuesday morning. Palmer twice visited her home before sending the May 17 letter but was unable to speak with her, she said.
“This is obviously a sensitive issue with everything that happened before,” Farrell said. “We’re just trying to get to the point where we can hopefully see some forward motion.”
Ruggles said the town is off-base. For one thing, the van in question is registered and has current tags, she said. Ruggles said she is going to call her lawyer and be prepared to fight any attempts to force a make-over for her property.
“I am not going to be bullied,” she said. “I am not going to take this anymore.”
Ruggles’ plans to repair her home stalled in 2008 when the economy soured and her photography business tanked. Piled packages of shingles sat on her roof, unopened, for three years. And her driveway was littered with scrap metal and other items she collects to help pay her bills.
The town got involved after neighbors complained about the state of her home and the effect it was having on their property values. The town cited her for a “clean lot violation” and fined her $480 in December 2010.
Officials insisted that they bent over backward to work with Ruggles and help her avoid jail, but she rebuffed their efforts and ignored court dates and warnings. After a year of trying to resolve the situation, police arrested Ruggles on Jan. 5.
Several people who read about Ruggles’ plight in The Post and Courier called the newspaper offering their help. A landscaper mowed and tied up her yard after she was released from jail. And a contractor fixed up her roof for free earlier this month.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.