Porta-potties: daring decor or illegal eyesore?

  • Two green porta-potties flank a driveway entrance on the property of Chris Duval at 17 Hyde Hill Road. The driveway leads to the home of Henrietta Wallace of 21 Hyde Hill Road. A fabricated metal image of Donald Trump can also be seen on the left. For the Gazette/Fran Ryan

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    One of the old out of commission port-o-potty "decorations" located on Chris Duval's property that is drawing displeasure from neighbors. For the Gazette/Fran Ryan

For the Gazette
Published: 8/1/2016 11:54:14 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and just off Hyde Hill Road in Williamsburg, one man’s “decor” has some neighbors crying foul.

The Board of Health met Monday to discuss complaints from residents regarding two, porta-potty toilets on the property of Chris Duval of 15-17 Hyde Hill Road, as well as concerns that a septic system on Duval’s property is noncompliant with state regulations known as Title V.

Residents Keith Snow, of 84 Goshen Road, and Henrietta Wallace, of 21 Hyde Hill Road, along with her attorney Alan Seewald of Northampton, asked the board to force Duval to remove the porta-potties from his property because they are located less than 30 feet from the road. That’s a violates state law, they claim.

Duval counters that the portable toilets are not functioning lavatories and are merely “decorative” pieces that have been there for months.

It’s the third time in the last two years the two sides have sparred — last year over a proposed expansion of Duval’s metalworks business and in 2014 over excessive noise of gunfire on his property.

The controversial toilets flank a common drive on Duvall’s property that leads to Wallace’s home, which look like make-shift entrance columns to the driveway.

“If he likes them so much, why doesn’t he move them to his front lawn where he can see them and enjoy them better?” Wallace said.

According to Duval, the johns have never been used as chemical toilets while on his property.

“The porta-potties are old, there are no chemicals, no toilet paper in them and the doors are screwed shut,” Duval said. “It’s just decoration, just like any other decorations I have put on my property.”

Given that the toilets are not being used and contain no chemicals, Board of Health members questioned their jurisdiction in the matter.

Board member Helen Symons noted that laws regulating placement do not specify a toilet’s functionality.

Duval said the town’s health agent, Valerie Bird, is aware of the toilets.

“Valerie said that everything we have done has been 100 percent correct and there is no issue here,” he said.

Health Board Chairwoman Donna Gibson wants to collect the facts, review the legalities of the issue and decide what jurisdiction the board has, if any.

“I would like to send the health inspector and one of our members to go see the situation,” Gibson said. “Then we can then meet here again next Monday.”

Charlotte Otis, 91, of Villiage Hill Road, said at Monday’s meeting that she is not impressed with the latrine installation.

“I don’t think that qualifies as decoration or as art,” Otis said, shaking her head.

When asked if he would be willing to move them on his own, Duval refused.

“If I agree to do that and I want to put up another decoration, we are going to be right back here again,” he said. “Other people have decorations that I might not like. It doesn’t mean they can’t have them.”

Septic system concerns

In an unrelated development, Duval began excavating an old failing septic system in early June and installing a new system. Snow and Wallace maintain that the old system was improperly installed and question whether the current work is being done properly. They voiced concerns about groundwater contamination.

“We have seen excavation of the old system but there is no evidence of appropriate Title V certification or engineering plans on this septic system,” Snow said. “We are just asking you to make sure everything is being done properly.”

Gibson asked to see the plans for Duval’s new septic system, which Duval said he would produce.

“These people have to stop this. My septic system is 100 percent legal and I have all of the permits,” Duval said, adding that he would bring the engineer who designed the system to the board’s Aug. 8 meeting.

Continuing conflict

The parties involved in this issue are no strangers to one another.

In 2015, Duval sought a special permit to continue to operate CRD Metalworks, an existing manufacturing business for the fabrication and assembly of firewood-processing equipment. Duval had owned the business for nine years.

Snow and Wallace were among neighbors who opposed issuing the permit, citing zoning laws, noise, fumes and environmental impacts to the area.

The permit was eventually denied by the ZBA, and Duval relocated his business from Hyde Hill Road to 118 River Road in Leeds.

In 2014, the same neighbors were in conflict over what they said was excessively loud noise of gunfire coming from Duval’s property.

Duval said the guns were legal and were being fired by properly licensed shooters for target practice, but eventually said he would curtail the amount of shooting on his property.

Duval has also come under fire for placing a fabricated metal Confederate flag on the side of his Williamsburg business in July of 2015 and flying the Confederate flag at his home, both of which are no longer on display.

“What I want to know is when is this going to stop. Enough is enough! It is my yard, my property and I can put up whatever I damn well please,” Duval said.

But both sides say that they are being purposefully antagonized by the other.

“Its all about retaliation. I feel sorry for Dr. Wallace. Anytime someone comes to visit her they are assaulted by these toilets,” Snow said.

The Board of Health’s Aug. 8 meeting will take place at 2 p.m. in the Town Office building in Haydenville.




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