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Prescott Valley Tribune | Prescott Valley, Arizona

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8/21/2013 9:21:00 AM
Toilet-shaped planters cause conflict between residents, town
Pat and Bob Schmidt said they were just trying to recycle when they installed low flow toilets and turned their old ones into flower planters in their yard.
Courtesy Photo
Pat and Bob Schmidt said they were just trying to recycle when they installed low flow toilets and turned their old ones into flower planters in their yard.
Courtesy Photo

Cheryl Hartz
News Editor

All stories have two sides, and quite often, both sides appear reasonable. Such seems to be the case of a trio of toilets re-purposed as planters on a Prescott Valley lawn.

Property owners Pat and Bob Schmidt say the planters pleasingly overflow with flowers and greenery and don't offend anyone. But when Town of Prescott Valley Code Enforcement Officer Mike Young first noticed the toilets in early April, summer's bloom had not occurred.

"In most cases, toilets we find in yards are just junk. We notify and they come into compliance voluntarily," Town Code Enforcement Supervisor Fernando Gonzalez said. "In this case, at the end of winter, with no plants - or dead plants - the toilets appeared as just toilets. After we notified the Schmidts, then plants were starting to grow, and it changed into something else. There's not as much of an impact now the plants have grown up. But they have a flag on one, so it really stands out. Foliage has overgrown the rest."

Gonzalez said Town Code prohibits open storage of nuisance objects such as furniture and refrigerators on real property that devalues other neighborhood properties.

The Schmidts argue that toilets are not mentioned specifically in the code, while Gonzalez said the list is not all-inclusive, but that listed items provide guidance for determining what similar items may fall under the umbrella of nuisance.

"We've been here for 23 years and the toilets have been there for five," Pat Schmidt, 81, said of their home at the corner of Ocotillo and Spouse. "Both of us are getting older and it's getting harder to do what we used to do, but we keep it up."

She said the toilets are not discarded, but placed specifically in their well-tended yard.

"We live by CASA (Central Arizona Senior Association) and I stopped people for three weeks asking if the planter was tacky and offensive. I went door-to-door to my neighbors. Not one person complained," Bob Schmidt, 80, said.

However, Gonzalez said his department received two phone calls from neighbors bothered by the toilet planters.

"The neighbors admitted they told Mr. Schmidt they were not offended, because they didn't want to hurt his feelings. But they feel the toilets are kind of an embarrassment," Gonzalez said.

Pat said from the Internet, people can order planters shaped like toilets.

"It's silly to spend $25 when what I was doing was recycling," she said.

Bob said he broke the bottom out of the toilets, which they had replaced with low water use commodes five years ago, filled them with potting soil and turned them into art deco flower planters.

Gonzalez said the distinction lies in the item's intended use.

"But what about the 'saguaro cactus' made from horseshoes in someone's yard, and the motorcycle sculpture at the Civic Center," Pat wondered. "They're beautiful and I love them, but it's still junk. Maybe the town should ask the Arts Council (about the planters.)"

Gonzalez said the town's public buildings are separate from residential neighborhoods, where people "don't want to have to explain (to visitors) why the toilets are there."

Ultimately, Town Code authorizes the Town Manager or his designee - in this case the Zoning Administrator - to determine what non-listed uses of objects may be prohibited.

"Realistically it's not my case, but I'm involved here. It's part of my job to protect residents," Gonzalez said. "There has to be a place where we say, we have to follow these rules. What else are we going to see as a planter?"

He suggested to the Schmidts that they situate the toilets so they would be the only ones seeing them on their property.

"I thought it was a fair option. They can still enjoy them. From the timeline, when we first notified until now, you can see we're trying to work with these folks, even up to the hearing officer," he said, adding, "This is the first case that has gone this far. We usually remedy the situation through the process and education."

On July 22, the Schmidts lost their appeal before the Zoning Commission's five-member volunteer Board of Adjustment, and will plead their case further next Monday, this time before an administrative hearing officer.

"I'll let it go to a lien against my property before I remove it. It's just that simple," Bob Schmidt said.

Gonzalez said anyone is welcome to attend the hearing at 2 p.m., Aug. 26, in the Civic Center's courtroom (first floor).

"The hearing officer allows testimony from anybody," he noted. "Every case is heard on its own merit because every one is different."

Related Stories:
• Letter: Photo on story about toilet planters was 'misleading'

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2013
Article comment by: Lynn Cee

Ah yes- another incident of selective enforcement. All of these little alpine fiefdoms are the same, I see.
The tranquility of any neighborhood is one jerk away from being disrupted.
We all know the jack-boot clan thrives on justifing their existance. So, if any municipality in Yavapai County wants to have a zoning code at all, they need to do thier JOBS and spell out every single thing that is not allowed in whichever fiefdom is in question, not this half-ass enforcemement in certain sections, or near special people, ect being under different rules.
I had a neighbor once who had those cute recycled tire planters for growing taters. I've seen other friends grow taters in recycled bathtubs (no gophers).
I guess PV is an anti-green, non-recycling kind of town.
If any town council/zoning dept has this crap at the top of their radar instead of solving the dry weed/fuel problem on vacant lots owned by out of town investors-the code enforcement goons need to be sued individually the next time a wild fire chews up private homes because they were derelict (or incompetant) at doing their jobs.

Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Article comment by: S. Bulger

The toilet symbolizes Pee Vee to a T

Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013
Article comment by: gary chamberlain

What does “America the Beautiful” mean to you?

A thought occurred to me, “why aren’t more folks as vocal about the trash on the highways that connect our Arizona communities?”

Have you ever considered how filthy and disgraceful our Arizona Veterans Highway (I-17) is?

This highway is one of three Arizona veteran’s highways that are a dumping ground!

Residents, tourists, ADOT and ADOT subcontractor have left tons of trash and abandon construction items tossed in the median and on shoulder of all our highways.

Next time you get a chance, count the abandon ADOT related items that disgrace every veteran that has served our country and send a picture of this to the paper or me.

Solution …… Parents, schools and businesses need to teach their children about “America the Beautiful” and having pride in their community.

I’ll take a toilet filled with flowers any day instead of looking at our memorial highways being used as a dump and landfill.

We will only solve this littering problem if we admit it exits and "do" something to change it.

Gary Chamberlain
Cornville AZ
Vietnam veteran

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Article comment by: RICK ALLEN

It does not matter what the town has done or not done else where. The town acts when someone complains. In this case I think they should move the toilets out of sight. It is not a good place to have them, and they do make the are look tacky. If the people are not in physical shape to do this, them others should help them, even the town. I understand that what is junk to one is not to another. In this case I think it is mostly junk to anyone but the owners and should be removed.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: justa gal in PV

Well once again someone has gotten confused with their power.. I see lots of oroperty around that is always weed filled.Look at Glassford hill, all the weed filled lots. Do these belong to the Town? or to that big land owning family here?
Lets look around and clean up ditches, abandonrd buildings, lots and other junk.
Leave these nice prople alone. As for the " neighbor who complained to the Town but could not be truthful to a neighbor.
well people like you suck and I am glad you are not my neighbor.
The town needs to get a grip about what matters. Then they need to be nice to the people here. We are your employers. As for tbe code people you used to be able to have a conversation with us, not acting like you are a little god here.
Once again I call on all of us to disband the ol boys network...
Call them out on this behavior, it simply unacceptible .

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: David Dellinger

We attended the hearing and what Gonzalez said was a LIE! While anyone is welcome to attend the hearing it is a LIE that "The hearing officer allows testimony from anybody," The issue of wither this is a discarded toilet or former porcelain throne now planter was not at issue. The decision that it is a discarded toilet was decided before and this "news paper" failed to inform us of that hearing. This is Socialism in action - a government official ignores all the citizens and takes away all our freedoms so we won't offend.

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Can't Fight City Hall

Twelve years ago when moving to PV I called for Blue Stake before planing trees. Former owner installed fence with out a permit, I was threaten with property lien for legal fees against me to bring the property up to code. Applied for the permit and was asked to sign statement that the fence was new I said "No, that is a lie" Town response? "Do you want the permit or not?" NICE!

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2013
Article comment by: Chuck Baizel

My only problem with the toilet is the American Flay hanging over it. This is disgrace to the flag. Lets have the City make them remove the Flag. Sorry, but when you are a veteran and have been in the military during a conflict, the Flag means a lot to the veterans.

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2013
Article comment by: Yorkshire Dale

Seiously folks just drive around unit 19 adjacent to Mountain Valley park the state of some of the yards is disgusting, clean that up first before you start critisizing a couple of flower bedecked toilets gees.

Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Paris

The picture that accompanied the article by Cheryl Hartz was extremely misleading. The picture in the paper is definitely not the toilet under a flag painted pallet I saw when I drove down Spouse. In my opinion, it appears the owner(s) of the property staged the "folk art flag over the "toilet planter" in an effort to thumb their noses at Code Enforcement, once the violation was brought to the Schmidt's attention. I am also of the opinion that the Zoning Commission's Board of Adjustment has the FINAL say (short of legal action) in conflicts between the Town and property owners regarding Code and Ordinance issues. Why then would any Administrative Hearing Officer even consider overturning a decision reached by the five member volunteer panel of the Schmidt's peers? Overturning that decision leads to a town full of toilet flower pots during the growing season and "yard trash" the rest of the year. Even Town Management recognizes the need for voluntary junk and trash removal, hence the twice yearly Clean-up Days. Too bad every Town resident doesn't participate!

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013
Article comment by: WOW IFONLY

Funny how people are ,i'm sure if you live next to this property you would be crying to the town that you can't sell your property at market value. what next? oh i guess you'll take less for your home to let your neighbor prove a point. I DOUBT IT.

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013
Article comment by: Town is not doing its job

This bothers me. The Town has done NOTHING for 8 years to the 2 story condemned building with no windows and a fence around it, destroying the values of properties on Spouse, less than 1 mile from this planter issue. Eyesore #2 , that rust bucket on Lake valley you call a library, that is OK because you call it art. One man's art is another man's garbage. Leave these people alone.

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013
Article comment by: mind your own business

really people and town of prescott valley, a toilet is offensive? I think it was a very creative idea to use instead of filling up our country with garbage. our generation is a throw it away society and I think it needs to stop. bring back the brown paper bags, and things that break can be repaired cheaper than it is to buy a new one. find ways to reuse things that are no longer available to use. or maybe complain about something that really does matter, maybe like things that pose as a danger-if you do not like what your neighbor puts in his or her front yard for decoration that really does not look ugly then move for goodness sake. don't make up lies to get your way how shameful is that. because you know what comes around goes around. and I like that her creative mind uses. maybe in the winter she can decorate it with fake plants or with the holiday seasons. leave them alone!

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013
Article comment by: No HOA

The Town of Presoctt Valley is trying to create their own Home Owners Association. They should begin with their own Town owned properties and continue with the developers tumble weed farms.
I drove by the property in question and it looks well cared for and well kept. Many of us bought our property where we did because there was NO HOA. We enjoy the diversity and charm of our neighbors. If I wanted something differant I would have bought in another area .
F Gonzales is quoted "Town Code prohibits open storage of nuisance objects such as furniture and refrigerators on real property that devalues other neighborhood properties."
What he conviently left out of the code was the phrase "...which causes SUBSTIANTIAL DIMINUTION in the value other property..." I know for a fact that neither F Gonzales, Mike Young or the "Hearing Officer" are qualified to determine a SUBSTANTIAL DIMINUTION OF VALUE over a couple of planters on someones private property.
I would love to attend this hearing on Monday but I will be unfortunatley working to pay the wages of these non-tax paying bureaucrats that are harrassing these property owners that also have to support the above mentioned leeches.

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013
Article comment by: PROPERTY VALUES


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