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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: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Catherine Swetel

That's funny. I was at the hearing, and it was stated no one had complained. During the hearing, the Town said the planters were discovered during a routine inspection of the neighborhood.

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Another Thought

Perhaps if this is removed they can hang "unmentionables" filled with flowers on a clothes line in the front yard.

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Oh Really?

The picture presented to the paper and shown is tolerable.

But THAT is not what's actually in their front yard.

If they remove what is there, maybe they'll put up an old outhouse with the half moon on the door.


Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Seriously Code Enforcement?

The Town of PV puts up a ridiculous unattractive statue of a look alike laura lee nye doing violence to an animal and that is ok to show off to the town! But a person who has beautiful flowers in a pot, that you can buy at the local hardware store, and they are told that's an embarrassment? Once again PV has their priority's all for the council trash, then for the citizen of this town!!

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Minnie Swetel

I do not believe that Fernando Gonzales has offered the suggestions he states in the article about re-positioning the planters. His letter states they must "...either remove the items from open storage and place them into an enclosed building out of public view, or remove them from the property." I also do not feel the Town of Prescott Valley is "trying to work with these folks." Anyone interested in more information from the Schmidt's should visit their website, http://pvpatschmidt.wix.com/pvartontrial.

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: Once again too much govenment

Once again...people need to clean up there own yards and keep there nose in there own yards before putting it in others...including the town. There are tons of other properties parks, easements, ditches that need more attention then some flower pot. Really you are wasting my tax dollars on this.


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