Building owner on illegal tire dump: ‘It’s definitely been hard on us’
Published 3:49 pm Friday, June 24, 2022
When Barbara and Fred Zeidan ran the gas station at 332 W. Elk Ave., they took pride in the cleanliness and appearance of their business and building.
“It was such a clean station, and we prided ourselves on that,” Barbara said this week. “At one point we were getting awards for its appearance.”
After they retired, the couple decided to lease their building to Tim Zimmerman, who opened Betsy Used Tires and Batteries.
And now, the Zeidans find themselves in the middle of a legal battle to remove thousands of tires dumped behind their building. “That it’s gotten to this level has hurt my husband and I so much,” Barbara said.
Zimmerman, whose business is buying and reselling used tires, has been stockpiling unusable tires behind the building, creating both an eyesore and more important a fire hazard. And while the pile of tires is not easily visible from highly traveled Elk Avenue, it is on prominent display for the people using the historic Tweetsie Trail.
Jeremiah Tolley, Elizabethton fire marshal, said city officials have been addressing the issue since 2012, with varying degrees of success.
However, in January the city finally took legal action, issuing a citation to Zimmerman. Since then, there have been four court appearances and $50 per day fines for Zimmerman. Municipal Judge Jason Holley last week admonished Zimmerman and ordered him to remove the tires.
But the massive pile of discarded tires remains, and the Zeidans likely will bear the cost of removal.
“It’s definitely been hard on us as property owners,” Barbara said. “This has really impacted our health dramatically.”
The couple has evicted Zimmerman, effective June 30. In addition to the stress, the Zeidans face significant financial losses that affect their retirement income — both from the unpaid rent in recent months and the cost of having the tires removed, which will fall to them as owners of the building if Zimmerman fails to pay for the removal.
“This is certainly not something you wanted to face in your retirement,” she said. “And we want to raise awareness so hopefully other property owners will not be victimized.”
Zeidan said municipal officials have been proactive and supportive in working with them to resolve the issue. However, the couple likely will have to pay to have the tires removed for disposal. And, she said, other repairs will need to be made to the building. “We’re looking at thousands and thousands of dollars at the end of the day. We’re hoping on a local city or state level there might be some kind of grant to help mitigate the expenses.”
The tires present both a fire danger and health concerns. Tolley said if the tires were to catch fire, his department could spend “four days to a week” trying to extinguish it due to the size of the pile. Moreover, tires create hazardous runoff. “If you put water (on a tire fire) you have to figure out how to contain it because there’s two-and-a-half quarts of oil from each tire.”
That runoff could feed to local rivers, and hazardous smoke could threaten nearby residents. “Even though we’re a pretty quick response department, we could be there four days to a week, and that’s if we have good water supply,” Tolley said.
Tires also create an ideal environment for mosquitos to breed in summertime, creating another issue for area residents.
“There’s more than one hazard involved,” Tolley said.
Tolley has reached out to city officials in Johnson City, which owns the Tweetsie Trail, regarding the situation and possible infringement on the trail’s right of way.
“We support the City of Elizabethton’s efforts to address it from their end,” said Charlie Stahl, assistant city manager for Johnson City. “It violates a variety of code issues … and it looks like it could be encroaching on our property, which is a right of way issue. If so, that could be trespassing onto our property and, ultimately, we could end up taking the issue to court.”
Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.