In May of 2016, I shared with you an issue facing historic Harmont Drive in Glendale. It is an older, historic neighborhood of large lot properties established in 1953, over 60 years ago. Their CC&Rs prohibit commercial use of the properties in this SR-17 (17,000 square feet) neighborhood.

As soon as a Mr. Don Olson moved into a home located on the northeast corner of 59th and Northern Avenues, within this subdivision, he used this location as a commercial tree farm business. He accepted retail customers at the location and also stored trees for disposition and sale at other locations in the Valley. Here’s a link to his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Shamus-OLearys-Tropical-Fruit-Trees-469661096392272/ .

When he purchased the property he, like any other buyer in this subdivision, received the CC&R’s prohibiting his use of his property for commercial purposes. Apparently he chose to ignore them and promptly began his retail business. When it came to the attention of the city via the neighbors, he claimed ignorance.

The neighbors couldn’t help but notice the increased commercial activity and notified the city’s Code Enforcement Department. Eventually Mr. Olson was told by the city that he had to stop his activities and he would have to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). On Thursday, May 5, 2016, Mr. Olson’s Conditional Use Permit request went before the Planning Commission. Fearing a denial, Mr. Olson requested that the item be tabled as apparently he had hired a zoning attorney to represent him when the CUP was scheduled for a rehearing on August 4, 2016.

On August 4th, 2016 the following occurred at the citizen Planning and Zoning Meeting: “CUP16-01: A request by Don Olson for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to operate a home occupation (Class II) business in a private backyard of a residence, which will mainly consist of growing trees and selling trees to customers with appointments on a property in the SR-17 (Suburban Residence) Zoning District. The site is located north of the northeast corner of 59th and Northern Avenues (5841 West Royal Palm Road) and is in the Barrel District. Staff Contact: Martin Martell, Planner.  COMMISSIONER HIRSCH MADE A MOTION TO DENY CUP16-01.  COMMISSIONER MORENO SECONDED THE MOTION, WHICH WAS APPROVED WITH A VOTE OF 6 TO 1 (GALLEGOS).”

The neighbors had won. Mr. Olson was denied his CUP request and would not be allowed to operate a business at this location. Then what are these semis doing at Mr. Olson’s residence? It’s not just a single occurrence but seems to happen frequently and with regularity.

Apparently these semis are dropping off trees…lots and lots of trees, which are then distributed by Mr. Olson to other locations for commercial sale. This is a commercial activity that had been strictly prohibited by the August 4th decision of the Planning Commission.

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Mr. Olson is gaming the system. As we residents of Glendale know all too well it’s well nigh impossible to expect Code Enforcement to check out anything on a weekend. Yes, they have an inspector on call from 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays. Guess when these semis arrive at Mr. Olson’s. You would be correct if you guessed after 5 PM on a Saturday evening. You would also be correct if you guessed that the trees would be gone by 9 AM on a Monday morning.

The neighbors notified Code of Mr. Olson’s activities (he uses the commercial name of Shamus O’Leary) and the response from Code to date? Nothing. Two months later, in October, 2016, neighborhood complaints are now arriving in a steady stream at Code Enforcement’s desk. Witness this October 15, 2016 email trail to Code (names and sensitive information reacted):

“From: XXXXXXXX Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2016 1:44 AM To: XXXXXXXXX (Code Enforcement)

Subject: Don Olson loading up fruit trees on Fri. 10/14 @ 7:45pm

 XXXXXXX,

Here are some pictures of Don Olson loading up a rental truck with fruit trees and supplies.  According to his FB page, he is selling his stuff at Mesa CC on Sat. morning.  XXXXX, my wife, called the Code compliance phone number and left a message.  I am sure that Don waited until after 5pm to load the truck knowing that there would be no code compliance officers on duty.  This is what I was talking to you about last week.  Did you ever get a chance to talk to someone in the police dept. to see if there is someone we can call on the weekends?  These pictures were taken on Fri. night around 7:45pm.  He is loading the truck from the driveway/easement on the back of his property.  The truck is facing 59th Ave.  The bottom picture is a house facing 59th Ave. and is not Don or his wife/girlfriend’s property.”

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Then a few days later, October 20th, another advisory email is sent to Code Enforcement:

“From: XXXXXXXXXXXX Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2016 3:25 PM To: XXXXXXXXXX (Code Enforcement) Subject: Shamus O’Leary

 XXXXXXXXX,

Just wanted to follow up with the e-mail I sent you last week.  According to Don Olson’s business FB page, he will be loading up another truck and heading out on Sat. morning to sell his trees in Apache Junction.  If he is loading his truck on Fri night or Sat morning, is there anyone to call that might catch him in the act?  It also appears that some of his customers are upset with him because he is charging sales tax of 9.6%.  Shouldn’t he be paying that sales tax to the city of Glendale?

 Thanks, XXXXXXXXXXX”

An email is sent to neighbors on the same day:

“From: XXXXXXXXXX Sent: Friday, October 21, 2016 7:55 PM To: XXXXXXXXXXX Subject: Fw: Shamus O’Leary

 Don is loading up trees again tonight for a big sale Sat. morning in Apache Junction.  I told Code Enforcement that he would be loading up a truck tonight but, you know the drill, nobody in Code Enforcement is available after 5 pm Fri until Mon. morning.  He pulled a Penske box truck into the front driveway around 6:10 pm, then started loading it up.  XXXXX (Code) said that XXXXXX (Code Inspector) would be available on Sat. morning if anyone sees Don, but I am sure he will be long gone by then.  The cell # is XXX-XXX-XXXX.  According to the Shamus O’Leary FB page, he is selling his trees in AJ from 9-11 am on Sat.  He also responded to one of his customers who asked why he charges 9.6% tax on fruit trees when Lowe’s doesn’t charge any.  He said his accountant advised him to and that he isn’t familiar with the tax codes.  He also said that he pays his taxes monthly?  Who is he paying them to?”  

By now, the City’s Code Enforcement and License & Tax Division knows what Mr. Olson is doing. Why are they not acting with alacrity? Code’s traditional response is that they have to catch the act itself and cite. That is impossible when the activity occurs outside of regular business hours. You would think that Code being aware of this situation would provide the neighbors with a contact inspector who would come out especially to deal with this illegal activity outside of regular business hours. So far…no.

I know that many in Glendale government read this blog. Hopefully, it will spur some sort of immediate action. After all, Code’s prime directive is to ensure the health and safety as well as the property values of Glendale’s residents. To date, this is yet another example of the city’s lack of response and ineffectiveness. It’s what drives residents nuts.

© Joyce Clark, 2016          

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