FOX 8 Defenders: Lot filled with crab traps upsets neighbors
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans Office of Code Enforcement has opened an investigation into a piece of land in a Venetian Isles neighborhood, zoned residential, but used to store and clean crab traps.
Calls from Meg Gatto and the FOX 8 Defenders prompted the city to take action after frustrated residents reached out begging for help.
In an idyllic Venetian Isles neighborhood on the outskirts of New Orleans, some neighbors say they’re at their wits end.
“The smell more than anything is the worst part of it. And then having to look at it every day,” David Hymel explains.
“It just seems abusive to me. It seems like abusing the law,” Dan Haun stated.
Hundreds of crab traps fill an empty lot between two homes, smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood.
“This guy bought this lot over here and basically they’re running a commercial crab business out of it,” Hymel says. “They work, they come, they pressure wash the traps, they leave them up for weeks.”
“It’s terrible for me and my dogs. My dogs come out here and they don’t even want to stay out here because of the smell. It smells so bad,” Hymel continues.
Next to the traps sit tanks full of diesel fuel.
“If something was to ever catch fire, the whole house would burn down, what does he have to lose? He’s got nothing but crab traps. I’ve got a whole house to lose,” Hymel said.
Hymel says a number of his neighbors are concerned about the situation and upset about the crabbing operation but he says they fear retribution and are too afraid to speak out.
The owner of the lot, Brett Ginn, lives in Pearl River, Mississippi.
“I’m tired of hearing about it. It’s harassing. I’m tired of the complaints. I’ve done went to court over this, six, seven times. Every time it’s been thrown out,” Ginn said.
According to the city, the piece of land is zoned in a single-family residential district, which means it’s primarily for single-family residences.
The city website says limited non-residential uses may be allowed, with approval.
Looking through city records, we found complaints about this property dating back to 2015. Ginn says he’s owned the lot for nearly 10 years. A city spokesman says in 2016, Ginn was brought to adjudication for a similar issue but then the property was brought into compliance. In 2018, another case was opened, but the property was never inspected so that case closed as inactive.
All the while, fed up neighbors say they’ve complained and complained and yet the traps remain.
“I’ve called everybody. I’ve called code enforcement. I’ve called quality of life office, Cyndi Nguyen’s office, I called Oliver Thomas’ office, and I’m still not getting anything done. It’s still the same thing, over and over and over again,” Hymel says.
But now that we’ve started asking questions, the city just opened a new case to see if there are any violations happening on this single family lot.
We asked Ginn if he could understand the concerns of the people who live on either side of his lot.
“I try to make it easy and the best I can for them. Soon as I pick up traps that are dirty, I try to clean them right away so they don’t have to deal with smell. I try to keep up with everything, pick up the trash,” Ginn says.
Ginn contends he only pressure washes his traps from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon and that no crabs touch the land. He also believes he’s not really running a business here.
“It’s a quality of life issue. They run the pressure washer for days and of course we can hear that, kind of a percussive sound, its more than a mower. It sounds like more than one and they’ll run that for days, it’s like all day long,” Haun says.
In the neighborhood, a lot of people have fishing boats docked behind their homes. Some even have traps in their yards, but Haun points out, “most people are respectful and they don’t bring the stink into their neighborhood.”
We asked Ginn if he would want to live next to a lot filled with crab traps.
“Wouldn’t bother me,” he responded.
According to city records, an inspector made an initial visit to check out the lot last week and another one is scheduled for next week. The upset neighbors tell us they reached out multiple times to the Venetian Isles Homeowners Association but nothing was ever done about their complaints. The homeowners association had no comment for this story.
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