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Tenth Street neighbors entangled in driveway dispute

An unusual number of older model cars in a Claremont driveway has some neighbors crying foul.

The owner of the home, located on the southeast corner of Tenth Street and Oxford Avenue, has been accumulating numerous older cars—some of which have seen better days—in the back driveway for the past two years, according to neighbor Erena Zaks.

By her count, as many as 14 cars have been parked in the driveway, a notion that has neighboring residents angry.

“My neighbors and I are really upset about it,” she said. “It’s an ongoing problem.”

The neighbors are claiming Brian Bobo’s car collection—which includes old Cadillacs, a Chrysler New Yorker and a black 1956 Ford Thunderbird—is an unsightly addition to the neighborhood.

The neighbors feel the city isn’t doing enough to curb the problem.

“The city does nothing,” Ms. Zaks said. “They would come out and he would promise to build a fence and as soon as they leave he forgets about it.”

Claremont Community Development Director Brad Johnson noted that the city has been in contact with Mr. Bobo for several months, handing down a violation for one car being unregistered in February. He noted the cars would not be in violation of the city’s public nuisance law, “as long as they are licensed and registered and operational.”

He also said Mr. Bobo was advised of parking a car on his lawn a few days ago.

When reached at his home, Mr. Bobo said he has been complying with city codes, and that he’s just an avid car collector.

“I’ve wanted to be a good neighbor,” he said.

The problem, Ms. Zaks said, started two years ago after Mr. Bobo moved into the house across the street from her.

“He began collecting cars,” Ms. Zaks said. “At first it seemed to be innocent and I did not pay much attention to it.”

But over time, the number of cars began to grow. Ms. Zaks reached out to city code enforcement, whom she says dismissed her.

She also claims the view from her home has hurt her chances of selling it. In June, a potential buyer reached out, but later rescinded an offer over what Ms. Zaks claims is the view from her front door.

“It’s very sad to know I won’t be able to sell my house if I need to,” she said.

Ms. Zaks reached out to the city about the situation in February. In a letter addressed to City Manager Tara Schultz and Councilmember Larry Schroeder, Ms. Zaks pleaded for the city to do something.

“I am convinced that this parking situation would not be tolerated anywhere else in the Village,” she wrote. “I am appalled that the city allows this situation to continue. A letter by code enforcement does not mitigate the fact that my property is devalued by Mr. Bobo’s so-called ‘hobby.’”

A petition received at the COURIER, which is currently signed by 11 neighbors, characterizes the property as “a detriment to the community” and calls for an ordinance to limit the number of cars a homeowner can park in a Claremont driveway.

Mr. Johnson confirmed there isn’t a code on the city books against the number of cars parked in a driveway, but the city can dock a resident for parking on landscape.

The city can also require a resident to put up a gate or shrubbery to obscure the view. Ms. Schultz noted this in a response to Ms. Zaks’ letter in February. In that letter, Ms. Schultz also said the city found one of Mr. Bobo’s nine vehicles being stored without proper registration.

“A fence, hedge or wall installation could mitigate these negative view impacts to the neighborhood,” Ms. Schultz wrote.

As of press time, no fence or hedge has been built. Ms. Zaks claims her neighbor isn’t taking the issue seriously.

“It’s like a child playing games with the city,” she said.

Mr. Johnson said the city is still trying to get Mr. Bobo to install the shrubbery, calling it one of the outstanding conditions.

“This is why we haven’t closed the case,” he said. “Ideally we want the shrubs to be installed. Not a small plant, but a substantial hedge and ideally a gate across that driveway to try to mitigate the complaints.”

Mr. Bobo told the COURIER he is working with an arborist to install hedges around the property, and is looking at October as a possible installation date. But a gate across the driveway could present a problem. Mr. Bobo said such a gate would not work due to the city’s setback requirements.

“I can’t have a wall unless it’s 18 feet back from the sidewalk, yet every neighbor has four-foot walls close to the sidewalk,” he said.

Mr. Johnson confirmed that a 15-foot setback would be required for a large gate, but said he could put a short wall at the front of the driveway, which wouldn’t do much for mitigation.

“I just don’t think he wanted to give up the usable property,” Mr. Johnson said. “That’s why he went with shrubbery.”

Ms. Zaks has also accused Mr. Bobo of using his driveway as a makeshift auto repair and a used car lot. Mr. Bobo has denied any commercial activity is taking place on his property.

Mr. Johnson said he had seen pictures of such activity at the lot, and advised Mr. Bobo that he could not have a mechanic working on cars in the driveway.

“They’ve been cooperative in ceasing that activity,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson also noted that a representative from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) arrived to Mr. Bobo’s property to see if any commercial activity was taking place, and determined the driveway did not meet the criteria, due to no visible signs, pricing or customers.

In the end, the neighbors just want Mr. Bobo to limit the number of cars in his driveway. Mr. Bobo said he was “more than happy to have a conversation with any resident” about the issue.

Three other neighbors were interviewed by the COURIER for this story, however, they declined to go on record.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com