Sheetrock, wood and old heating registers are just some of the items pulled from a Torrington house and thrown in the yard, causing concerns among neighbors and sparking tow fires in October.
Greg and Deana Wellnitz, who live next door, said they've been fighting an uphill battle over the past six months.
"It's just unsightly,” said Greg Wellnitz. “There's no other house around this area that looks like this."
The Torrington couple began taking pictures when the piles started stacking up.
"It's an eyesore, and it's bringing down my property value," said Wellnitz.
With no visible permit for work, they notified Torrington's Building Department in September. The city sent a letter about the complaints to the owner, Edgar Jadan, asking him to respond.
Then, in October, fire crews were called to two fires in the backyard.
"It filled our whole house with smoke,” said Wellnitz. “There was a line of smoke going right down the center of these two streets here.”
The first fire broke out Oct. 5, the second, a week later on Oct. 12. Torrington Fire Chief Gary Brunoli said each time, the homeowner was burning building materials and was told he had to stop.
A month later, a ditch appeared next to the piles. A few days later, it started filling up, the Wellnitzes said.
“A weekend before Thanksgiving, we noticed them lowering a lot of plaster and unburnable material out of the house, filling this ditch up with that material,” said Wellnitz.
He doesn't know what’s in the materials – and he’s worried.
“I think that's full of poison," said Wellnitz.
When we went to speak with the homeowner, we found he spoke limited English. But he indicated to us several times that he had no idea what he was doing was wrong. The Wellnitzes realized that might be the case, and that's why they hoped the city would step in to explain it to him.
In addition to the Building Department, the couple filed complaints with the Land Use Office and the Torrington Area Health District. A visit from a sanitarian found no observable health code violations, and the case was referred to another agency.
The city's Zoning and Land Use officer sent Jadan a warning letter in December and a cease and desist order in January, citing city regulations about operating a junkyard. She said she has given the Jadan until spring to clean up, because now all those piles are covered in a thick layer of snow and ice.
Even if the piles are removed, none of the agencies said they have authority over what may have been buried.
Brett Zuraitis with the Building Department said there are limits to what they can do, even with piles of construction debris in plain sight.
"You have due process because we are a government agency, so you have to afford them all the rights that they have,” said Zuraitis. “You can't just bully your way in through the door and just peek through windows, especially through a single-family home."
But Wellnitz said getting one of the city's building inspectors to listen was a battle of its own.
“He actually said, ‘Greg, I think what we're going to do at this time is I'm going to tear up your complaint form and we're going to pretend that none of this ever happened,’” he explained.
We spoke to Zuraitis about Wellnitz’s claim – he said it was a personnel matter that had been handled.
We went to Mayor Elinor Carbone to ask why it's taking so long to resolved the issue. She said she sympathizes with the Wellnitzes and understands their frustration but that the city must follow the law.
“Nobody wants to come home and see that every time they drive into their driveway,” said Carbone. “There is due process. We are obligated to follow the laws to give them the opportunity to come into compliance.”
Five months after the Wellnitzes first complained, the piles are still there. As due process plays out, the Wellnitzes said it's a process they now have little faith in.
“My frustration is these are the people - they're my front line,” Wellnitz said, of city officials. “These are the people I should go to when I have a problem, and they're not doing anything.”