LAWRENCE, Ind.— A man filed complaints with the city alleging his Lawrence neighbors are running an auto repair business out of their home.
East 52nd Street in Lawrence is a residential area filled with homes and families.
Ed Tarr grew up in the community. His mother lives on this street and he lives with her from time to time, but says the family is looking to leave.
"It's certainly gone downhill," said Tarr.
Tarr said his neighbor’s property is often littered with cars in the driveway and street with their hoods popped, some with expired plates or no license plates at all.
“Absolutely it’s an eyesore,” said Tarr. “It’s embarrassing to be honest with you. We have two sides of the road with parked vehicles, and there's kids in this neighborhood riding bikes. It’s a safety hazard."
Tarr suspects someone is running a business out of his neighbor’s home.
He took videos of what appears to be people working on different cars on different days out on the street.
"Guys would get out, they'd open hoods and cars and start working on them down there,” said Tarr. “Noise, disruption with the value of my property, it's very concerning."
When WRTV Investigates stopped by on September 28, we spotted a tow truck outside the property.
“It’s a business in a residential neighborhood that’s affecting my property value,” said Tarr. “They're down there with a grinder, grinding on cars, air ratchets. They've had lights up there working on cars at night."
WRTV Investigates stopped by again on October 19 and saw a Lawrence Police cruise outside the East 52nd Street property.
WRTV obtained a police report that shows someone at the address told police he suspected a 2014 GMC Sierra in his possession may have been stolen due to “missing catalytic converters and wiring harness damage.”
Turns out, the GMC was reported stolen back in July in Clay County Indiana.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the stolen vehicle case, and no arrests have been made.
The man who reported the stolen car at the East 52nd Street property in Lawrence is not a suspect, according to the sheriff’s office.
WRTV Investigates asked Lawrence Police whether any of the cars on East 52nd street are considered abandoned.
A Lawrence police spokesperson told WRTV Lawrence Police tagged three vehicles with violations of the city's abandoned vehicle ordinance.
"By the following Monday, all three tagged vehicles were voluntarily removed," said Gary Woodruff, public information officer for Lawrence Police.
In general, the City of Lawrence has the authority to tag and tow abandoned vehicles, which includes unplated vehicles on or off private property.
As for what’s happening on the 52nd street property, the Indianapolis Department of Business and Neighborhood Services (BNS) is the agency that enforces Lawrence’s zoning and permitting laws.
We took Ed Tarr’s concerns to Brandi Pahl, Chief Communications Officer at the Indianapolis Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.
Pahl said a BNS inspector visited the property on October 18.
WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: “Is this property currently in violation?”
Brandi Pahl: “I can't really say it is or it isn't. I can tell you that when we went out there to inspect after receiving a complaint, our inspector was not able to substantiate the claims."
WRTV: “When your inspector went out there, you did not find any evidence that this person was running an auto shop?”
Pahl: “Correct. There were no repairs being done. There were no abandoned or inoperable vehicles on the property. I believe a couple of collector cars, but they were not considered inoperable."
WRTV: “Is the city doing everything it can on this issue?”
Pahl: “The city is doing everything it can, but we have to catch them. We have to see it. We understand the frustration of the neighbors in that neighborhood. We ask that they keep reporting it and give us as much detail as possible."
Pahl said inspectors typically look for active repair work, auto repair tools and auto parts laying around, as well as multiple cars parked on the property.
BNS did cite the property owner back in August 2020 with zoning violations including vehicle repair in a residential zone, outdoor storage of vehicle parts and parking vehicles on the front yard grass.
The city says the property owner resolved those issues, but when they returned again in April 2021 they again found zoning violations and cited the property owner for vehicle repair in a residential area and outdoor storage of vehicle parts.
“But they cleaned it up,” said Pahl.
WRTV Investigates wanted to ask the property owner if she is running a business out of the East 52nd street home, so we emailed her and knocked on her door. The property owner lives in a different Lawrence neighborhood and did not answer the door.
WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney left her business card in the door.
We also stopped by the East 52nd Street property on November 1 and counted eight vehicles on the property and on the street in front of the house, three with expired or no plates.
Someone was home, but would not open the door, so we left our business card.
Ed Tarr is frustrated by the city’s responses and he’s looking to move his family out of the neighborhood.
"I rely on city government to help me out,” said Tarr. “We are considering leaving the neighborhood because of the direction it's going. We shouldn't be forced into that."
If you have a concern in your neighborhood, make sure you document the activity and the time of day it's happening so they can plan their inspections around that.
If you're outside Marion County, contact code enforcement in your community.