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Ashe County vs R.J. Combs

Updated on July 6, 2014

Is it ever going to stop?

The feud between Ashe County and "R.J." Combs has been going on for 6 long years. During this time, the residents of Ashe County have been split down the middle as to who's side they're on.

Some think the Ashe County officials should just leave R.J. alone. After all, he's just an old man living with his brother in the mountains. It's not like he's hurting anyone.

But others think R.J. needs to listen to what the county and the courts are telling him to do with his land. After all, if you bend the rules for one person, you have to bend the rules for everyone.

Generally speaking....

Do you think the government has the right to tell us how to live?

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So what's this feud about?

In 2004, Ashe County voted on and passed into law a new Junkyard Ordinance. The regulations in this ordinance affected any residence or business that had more than 6 non-running cars or at least 600 total feet of "junk material". So R.J. Combs joined the over 100 people who suddenly found their homes classified as a junkyard.

Letters were sent out and most complied with the new regulations by either getting rid of the junk or erecting a privacy fence. But R.J. Combs refused to do either. This has led to 6 years of court dates, judgments, fines and penalties. And his property hasn't changed one bit.

I know it looks bad - but like I said, we're in the country.

Boxes, boxes and even more boxes
Boxes, boxes and even more boxes

What do the residents of Ashe County have to say?

In a big city, this probably wouldn't be important. But to the 1,500 residents of Jefferson, North Carolina, it's front page news. Everybody has an opinion and most aren't shy about sharing it.

Even I have an opinion

R.J. lives on a seldom used back road about 15 minutes from town. So most of the residents of Jefferson aren't affected one way or the other by this feud or it's eventual outcome. My family's not that lucky. R.J. Combs is our next door neighbor. I look at his junk every day. I notice when he's added something new. And I notice when he's moved things around. When his cows run the fence, my house is where they come to pass the time. I think this entitles my opinion to carry a little more weight than Joe Schmo's. Here's what I think:

Leave him alone! The county has wasted 6 years trying to get R.J. to comply. He hasn't budged an inch and anyone that knows R.J. knows he never will. He's the very definition of stubborn. Besides, why does it matter that we can see a few junk cars, some scrap metal and a bunch of old boxes while we're driving down the road? It's not like we live in the middle of some posh suburban neighborhood. This is farm country.

What do you think?

Do you think Ashe County should stop pushing R.J. to comply with the county ordinance?

$200,000+

The county is fining R.J. Combs

$50 a day until he cleans up the mess. His total fines so far add up to over $200,000!

Sometimes I think the Ashe County officials have something against R.J. and Tommy. In addition to the whole junkyard feud, the county also went after their cattle. Two years ago R.J. and Tommy were arrested and charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty. In addition, all 17 of their cattle were seized and "relocated". The animal control officials alleged that the two brothers were neglecting the animals by not providing them with food and water.

I'll tell you right now, it was a bunch of bull (pun intended). Although they own some of the ugliest cattle I've ever seen, they've always provided food and water. In fact, one of the counties complaints is the hay that's stacked too close to the road. The case was eventually dismissed and the cattle were returned, along with a big bill from the veterinarian who checked them over when they were taken.

Do you think Ashe County is bordering on harassment?

See results

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Property rights are basic. The government should not be able to tell us what to do with our own property. That said, I wish we would all be good neighbors and consider the golden rule in the way we use our property. Kudos, Othercat, for this unique and thought-provoking lens.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      In most counties I think the area close to the road needs to stay clear so the county can mow. I was surprised to see they have stored stuff in this right-of-way area. If the old men are sick and the property has gotten this way due to some incapacity on their part, then perhaps the county would get further by assisting them in taking care of the place rather than bullying them. I do not know the whole story, but it sounds terrible that the county went in and removed their home and belongings. Where I live we call that theft. I think that is awful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I agree. i think people should leave these men alone...and MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS.. clean up their own house, their own property.. and learn how to TREAT innocent human beings. just because they are different doesnt make it right for them to be the target of all this HARRASSMENT.

    • simplyoasis profile image

      simplyoasis 6 years ago

      Frankly people need to mind their own business instead of meddling and trying to tell others what they can do with and on their own property ... as long as he's paid for his land, continues paying taxes, and isn't doing anything that can bring harm to others then leave the man alone. I know I wouldn't appreciate someone telling me what I can and can't have on my own land! The rules might differ inside city limits but pushing like it out in the country is ludicrous IMO.

    • Sunflower Susan profile image

      Sunflower Susan 6 years ago

      Just that I'm sorry this is happening to everyone. Governments can be extremely power-hungry. It really takes a lot of work for humans to overcome selfish tendencies and simply love one another as we should. One day, things will be right.

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 6 years ago

      Interesting story... but don't think there will be a happy ending

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      This is crazy! I have never heard about anything like this before!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Interesting topic. Lucky I have never had this problem.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      Quite an interesting lens topic! I've mixed feelings about a "junkyard" view, but that's my personal view, and I don't think it matters. I do feel that what your neighbor does with his own land is his own darned business. It is sad, too, to know that in the end the county will win and probably collect the land as payment. Your neighbor is lucky to have you on his side.

    • lemonsqueezy lm profile image

      lemonsqueezy lm 6 years ago

      I understand the reason for the ordinance. I would hate to see the whole county turn to junk. Really? Where does it end? However, a nice compromise would have been to grandfather in the current residences. That way, current people can leave their yards alone, but things won't get worse because newcomers will have to be tidier.