Suppose an individual had some rocks for landscaping dropped off at their house, and placed in the street in front of their house. Without any correspondence from the city on the issue, the city removed the rocks, paid to have them dumped as waste, and is now billing this hypothetical individual 200$.

Suppose upon investigating the city code, it would seem these actions are not in line with how the process is supposed to take place; namely, they did not notify this hypothetical individual that it was an issue that needed to be addressed. Suppose this hypothetical city code is verbatim the code found here:

or here, under Chapter 38: Section 81: Removal of Obstruction: http://www.cityblm.org/index.aspx?page=262

Also suppose the superintendent in charge of this particular branch of the city government, upon being spoken to, claimed the city acted properly, and was otherwise dismissive.

What might one suppose would be the legal basis for challenging this decision? Is this a proper interpretation of these hypothetical city codes given this hypothetical circumstance? Thank you

EDIT: for whatever reason this SE requires 50 rep to comment, so in reponse to user6727's answer: The city has the home-owner on file, they know where to send the water bill to; they even had the address on hand to send this fine to. Therefore, it would stand to reason that "they we're unable to contact" the responsible party would not be a very solid legal defense, no?

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    Hey @Ryan! It seems like you've created a second account. If you want to combine these accounts, you can use the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page, to contact Stack Exchange and have your accounts merged. Thanks! :) – Zizouz212 Aug 22 '16 at 21:41
  • If I had rocks dumped on my street, I would expect exactly what happened to you. However, in your situation, I would be tempted to ask them to prove they were your rocks. – James Aug 23 '16 at 14:55

The ordinance is not very specific about how notice is to be given: therefore, it need not be in writing, and it need not be sent by mail. It would not be surprising if the "notification" came in the form of a city person inspecting the reported obstruction, walking up to the house and knocking and finding nobody home (thus triggering the "In case the owner cannot be found" condition), whereupon the city removes the rocks. That clause does not mean "In case we do not know who the owner is", it almost certainly means "in case the owner cannot be contacted immediately". Article III is in general about obstructions on streets, which are not allowed, except by permit in section 78 under "Permit to Obstruct Traffic Lane". Assuming that no obstruction permit was obtained, what usually happens is that an officer is sent to tell the owner to remove the obstruction (more or less immediately), and if nobody is at the site whom they can tell, they probably won't go any further (e.g. asking neighbors where the owner is).

There is no legal definition of "reasonable time", instead the law simply takes that to mean "the amount of time a reasonable person would require". It would thus depend particularly on the size of the obstruction and the volume of traffic. One measure would be how quickly the rocks were moved -- if it was a matter of days and there was no notice, written or otherwise, then there would not be the kind of urgency that might justify the "We knocked and nobody was home" version of notification.

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