Emert has 60 days to comply

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors Chairman J. David Emert appeared in Prince Edward County Circuit Court on Friday, Jan. 29, and agreed to make changes on his property so charges against him of zoning ordinance noncompliance will be dismissed.

Emert was appealing guilty verdicts of county ordinance violations from Prince Edward County General District Court last year.

Wyatt Taylor, Emert’s attorney, said it was his understanding that there were three charges of Prince Edward County Zoning Ordinance noncompliance being made against Emert.

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Emert said this case involves certain equipment of his being visible near a road.

“The ordinance that the county has is ambiguous, and the way it states, it includes farm equipment (and) everything else, and that’s not what it was written (for), the intention, but anyway, the way it is written now, it includes farm equipment and whatever else,” he said.

Taylor said the circuit court did not necessarily take a plea from Emert on Friday.

“The facts were sufficient for a finding of guilt, but the court did not make a finding of guilt,” Taylor said. “The court has not made any kind of ruling as to guilt or innocence at this point.”

Special Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford, of Nelson County, was representing Prince Edward County, and he put in his own words Emert’s action Friday.

“He stipulated the allegations — the evidence I was going to present — would have found him guilty, but he didn’t plead guilty,” Rutherford said.

Taylor noted the circuit court gave Emert essentially 60 days to confirm or ensure that his property is in compliance with the county’s zoning ordinance.

“If I put up a wall or a little piece right there within 60 days, then everything just goes away,” Emert said.

A status hearing was scheduled for March 26 at 1:30 p.m. to see where Emert’s property stands in relation to the ordinance. Taylor said that if, before then, photos are supplied to the judge or a letter from a Prince Edward County employee determining compliance is sent stating the property is no longer in violation of the ordinance, the case will be dismissed without anyone needing to appear in court in March.

Emert noted Leonard Picotte, a man who lives near him, is the individual highlighting the status of properties in that immediate area.

“He’s trying to enforce, from what I understand, some ordinances that the county has against several people,” Emert said of Picotte. “I happen to be one of them. I’m not the only one.”

Picotte has said the unattractive appearance of properties near his own are hurting his property’s value.

Emert affirmed he was pleased with how things went Friday in court.

“I hope it suffices Mr. Picotte,” he said. “The county is still going to have to get the ordinance reworded.”

Picotte said he did not think things went very well Friday at all and explained why.

“This is the third time Mr. Emert was given the opportunity to clean his property,” Picotte said.

“As a matter of fact, in his first trial, he was given 60 days to clean it up, and he didn’t do it. And he was found guilty, and then he appealed that and got a second trial. So I thought that he should have simply been found guilty and fined.

I think Mr. Emert got a break, quite frankly.”

As for satisfaction with the plans made by Emert to screen equipment from view, Picotte indicated he will withhold judgment until the efforts have been made.