Dispute over ducks, other complaints, has Oak Street man headed to court
There's more than a property line that separate Ron Graziaplena and Cheryl Collins. There's 30 years of neighbor disputes, and now that Collins wants to sell her property and move away, she's even more concerned about what Graziaplena does outside his house.
Graziaplena, a former truck driver, builds things in his front yard, has a row of tomato boxes along his driveway, a boat parked on the grass of the north side of his house, and he's keeping 18 mallard ducks in his back yard.
"My home is assessed at $80,000," Collins said. "The last real estate agent I had over said I probably couldn't get $50,000 for it."
The dispute will land Graziaplena in City Court on July 23. He is accused by city inspectors of keeping his yard full of debris, trash and junk, and of keeping the ducks in unsanitary conditions.
On April 26, 2001, Graziaplena was granted a variance to keep 10 water fowl on his property. He is allegedly in violation of the variance. The city says he has 19 ducks. Graziaplena says he has 18.
The variance, reportedly, also doesn't allow mallards.
Graziaplena said he's kept dozens of different varieties of ducks over the years, and that he wasn't aware the variance allowed only certain breeds of ducks, and besides, what's the difference?
"They’re pets," Graziaplena said. "People have dogs and cats. I have ducks. I ‘ve always been fond of ducks and geese -- waterfowl."
He said he got his first duck when he was 2 years old (his parents moved into 172 Oak St. when he was a year old), and he's pretty much kept ducks ever since -- for 59 years, most of the time living in the same house.
He moved back into his parent's house about 25 years ago, he said, and it's been for close to that long, by his version, that Collins has been complaining about "anything and everything" around his home.
"It's been no picnic living next door to that man," Collins said.
The real trouble started, Graziaplena said, when he let go a young woman that was working for him, helping him with his projects and the care of his ducks.
The woman had become friends with Collins, and Graziaplena accuses Collins of retaliation for letting her go.
"There’s a lot of work around here that needs to be done by a guy, and I’m disabled, so I needed to hire a guy," Graziaplena said.
Collins said the girl wasn't fired, she quit. She couldn't stand, according to Collins, the unsanitary conditions the ducks lived in.
Graziaplena disputes that the ducks are kept in an unhealthy environment. Their water pond is cleaned regularly and they get fresh water daily, he said. It's heated in the winter, they have shelter and plenty of food.
As for the limit on ducks, Graziaplena notes that ducks breed. They lay eggs and produce ducklings. When the young ducks have enough feathers to fly, Graziaplena said, he releases them at a swamp owned by a cousin. He only keeps the 10 adult ducks, otherwise.
The young ducks are usually released in the last week of July.
As for Collins, she said she's about done with the situation.
"I’m ready to walk away from it all," Collins said.