Valorie Milosevich has for weeks called Gilbert’s code compliance department and emailed the mayor and Town Council members, asking for help.
She claims a broken-down motor home parked in a neighbor’s yard has homelesslooking people living in it. And that is making it hard for her to sell her house and leave the neighborhood, she said.
"A lot of the neighbors think it’s pretty disgusting," she said. "I can’t resolve this problem at all."
Town officials regularly receive such calls for help from residents having trouble with neighbors. In fact, town officials said, neighborhood disputes are the No. 1 reason residents contact the town.
"People are pretty proud of their homes," Mayor Steve Berman said. ". . . Most of their personal wealth is tied up in their home. When they think some slob neighbor is making their investment worth less, it doesn’t make for a happy relationship."
Many disputes, such as illegally parked vehicles or overgrown weeds, are handled by homeowners associations, commonplace in Gilbert. But as many as 20 percent of the town’s neighborhoods aren’t governed by HOAs.
And so residents call on town officials to step in.
That was the case a few months ago when a resident called to complain about a neighbor whose front yard was one huge garden. The town subsequently determined the gardener wasn’t violating any codes.
Town officials said complaints about such things as a barking dog, a tree overhanging a neighboring pool or a badly parked car have turned violent.
"We encourage people to get to know their neighbors ahead of time, before trouble strikes," senior code officer Stephen Wallace said. "You don’t have to be best friends. But clearly it’s important if you’re nice to one another. It seems like people are not able to work out their differences, and we have so many newcomers right now."
Cynthia Dunham, founder of The Leadership Centre which offers classes and mediation programs between neighbors, said neighbors often can prevent and alleviate disputes by introducing themselves, and offering cookies or a gift. Often though, it takes a complaint and the courts to force the parties in to mediation — a point at which an entire neighborhood may be involved and taking sides.
"I’d say 95 percent of our neighborhood issues could be resolved if we just knew our neighbors," she said. "And they are probably going to be more likely to listen to you. You can look out for each other.
"No man is an island. We live in communities."
As for Milosevich’s problem, Wallace said code compliance officers couldn’t find any evidence of someone living in her neighbor’s trailer, and as a result, there is nothing the town could do.
Milosevich hasn’t given up. She’s contacted the governor’s office and is considering legal action.
A man who claimed ownership of the home declined to comment on the accusations, but said his son was supposed to repair and move the vehicle long ago.
For help resolving a neighborhood dispute, call the Leadership Centre at (480) 732-7296 or www.theleadershipcentre.org.