Owen Cobbum’s current bout with zoning authorities has taken an expensive turn for him.
He is accruing fines of $300 a day for not cleaning up his property near SR 13 south of North Webster.
He asserted the tarped piles of items are building materials he needs to complete construction of the storage facility on the property, located just south of CR 500N.
But Cobbum was told in January 2013 (see related) he was to allow “absolutely no outside storage” on the site, according to Dan Richard, director of the Kosciusko County area planning commission. The condition accompanied the board’s granting of Cobbum’s request to erect a “personal storage building” on the property.
The board gave Cobbum “six months to get started on construction and two years to finish,” said Richard, “so there’s still a little time on that.”
Cobbum, however, allegedly violated the condition and the board filed suit against him in November 2013.
On Sept. 22 the board secured a summary judgment against Cobbum. The order included a permanent injunction “that there be no ‘outside storage’ at the subject property” and granted a judgment for $3,650 (one year’s worth of violations at $10 per day).
The order upped the daily fines to $300, the maximum allowed by the ordinance, as of Nov. 1.
A review of court records last week revealed no payments have been made on the judgment or the continuing fines.
Richard and Cobbum met Friday at the site. Richard acknowledged the storage “was down to a point,” but said, “I don’t think we are done with this. It will be a board decision.”
The board will discuss the issue at its Dec. 9 pre-meeting. In the meantime, Richard said, “We’re going to instruct our attorney, ‘Don’t let up.’”
This is not Cobbum’s first run-in with county authorities about outside storage issues.
In the 1980s Cobbum was ordered by a circuit court judge to clear his Syracuse property of debris and comply with state fire code regulations. The judge indicated refusal to obey the court order could result in jail time.
Shortly thereafter, Cobbum sold his property to John Rinker, a co-founder of Rinker Boats, who promptly cleaned up the property. According to Rinker, it took several dump truck loads to remove the boat and boat trailer parts.
In 2009 the town of Cromwell filed a complaint and applied for a permanent injunction against Cobbum for violations of the town’s zoning ordinance.
The subject property was zoned for agricultural use and contained only a pole barn. Cobbum used the property to store boats, windows, doors, rolls of vinyl, aluminum frames, plastic boxes and other salvaged building materials.
A Noble County court entered judgment for the town, finding the storage of such items was inconsistent with the primary use of the property. Cobbum appealed the case and lost.
In a telephone call last week, Cobbum’s attorney, Robert Reed, offered no comment and objected to any contact with his client.