Man Spends $20,000 To Clean Up Vacant Lot, City Says He's A Trespasser

During the past few years, a Philadelphia developer and business owner says he’s been fined for un-shoveled snow, trash and other violations for a vacant lot (pictured, left) adjoining one of his properties — a vacant lot he doesn’t even own. But after he decided to spend his own money and time having 40 tons of debris removed from that same lot, the city claims he’s a trespasser.

“They don’t like nice things,” the man tells the Philadelphia Daily News. “For a private developer to create a garden, it’s a question of who gets credit. To do it without their blessing, you’re basically insulting them.”

But a rep for the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development tells the paper, “Like any property owner, [the authority] does not permit unauthorized access to or alteration of its property. This is both on principle (no property owner knowingly allows trespassing) and to limit taxpayer liability.”

In August, the developer went to the Redevelopment Authority to complain about the lot and offered to clean it up. The city told him not to, but he just couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Finally out of frustration, I said, ‘I’m going to clean it,’ and that’s when I rustled every possible feather there,” he tells the News.

Since then, the city has threatened legal action against him, though it has not actually issued a citation.

“They said we need to return it to the condition we found it in immediately,” he claims.

One area resident doesn’t understand why the city is so upset about the lot, which has gone unsold for years.

“They liked it filled with garbage and broken glass?” she asks.

The above image is the lot as it appeared before the cleanup. Since it is is only a few blocks from Consumerist’s Philadelphia office, I was able to run over there and snap a couple of pics of the results.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.