Graffiti trailer raises concerns in Colington neighborhood
A Colington Road mobile home that has been littered with graffiti since early December has captured the attention of passersby and generated concern among nearby residents and business owners. But county officials say that mitigating the eyesore on the heavily travelled roadway is out of their jurisdiction.
Officials say the mobile home — which sits adjacent to Colington United Methodist Church — is the subject of a dispute between the owner of the property and the owner of the mobile home, who allegedly graffitied his own trailer with such crude spray-painted messages as “fuk pigs,” drug slang terms like “trap house” and “420” and ominous-sounding phrases like, “Where’s my money Bryan” and “suicide mentality.” And that’s just a sampling.
Officials from the Dare County Sheriff’s Office and Dare County Planning Department have told the Sentinel that they have no authority over the matter, which they characterize as a landlord-tenant issue that is handled through the magistrate.
The fate of the mobile home, too old to legally be moved off the property, is uncertain. However Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie told the Sentinel that the property owner has indicated he plans to clean up the graffiti.
“I pray that right after the first of the year, he is going to go ahead and paint it and that eyesore will be gone,” Doughtie said. The good news, he notes, is “if you don’t really look at it closely, you can’t see what it says.”
Meanwhile, just a short distance down the road at Colington Pizza, owner Loretta Sanders said in a telephone interview that people on the island are concerned about the mobile home that is in plain view from the road.
“There is a whole lot of pride back here,” asserted Sanders. “And it’s an eyesore. There is a lot of concern about whose problem it is, and how long it is going to stay like that.”
It’s also been a subject of concern at Colington United Methodist Church, Reverend Teresa Holloway acknowledged. “It’s certainly been a topic of the congregation and people are surprised nothing has been done about it. Everyone on Colington Road can’t help but see it,” she said.
Major Jeffrey Deringer of the Dare County Sheriff’s Office told the Sentinel that nothing criminal has occurred on the property since the owner of the trailer spray-painted the home himself.
“Unfortunately, nothing can be done,” said Deringer, adding that the sheriff’s office is involved in the sense that it is fielding calls. “The person who owns it can do anything with it they want…it’s an eyesore, that’s all it is.”
Several county officials interviewed by the Sentinel said that the property owner has evicted the owner of the home and has also told him to get his trailer off the property. However, due to the age of the mobile home, local laws prohibit it from being moved. There also appears to be uncertainty about whether the trailer can be demolished by anyone other than the owner of the home.
Despite some suggestions that the matter might fall under the purview of the Dare County Planning Department, Planning Director Donna Creef said that wasn’t the case. “We cover land use laws,” she noted, adding that the home is not subject to the county’s nuisance ordinance since it isn’t related to public health.
Creef, who said she hadn’t seen the home herself, even floated the idea that the graffiti messages, some of which seem at least borderline obscene, may fall under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
And she also had a word of advice for those bothered by the sight of the home: “If people have a hard time with it, I’d suggest keeping an eye on the road since Colington Road is so curvy.”