Saturday, October 11, 2008

She Said, He Said

Last month we had an entry citing a letter signed by Keena Melton addressing the role of Walt Eilers in filing a Code Enforcement action and his attitude toward college students. "He does want students here that are mindful and respectful of city ordinances and our citizens," she said, but neither she nor Eilers cared much for having five students living in the Waterman Woods neigborhood.

According to Melton's account, "The number of people not only violated our neighborhood covenants but also exceeded the number allowed by city zoning codes. Walt, in trying to protect Waterman Woods and the city of Fayetteville, took up the cause. He initially used diplomacy and tried to work personally with the offending renter, but was rebuffed. Subsequently, by going through proper channels, using the complaint procedures and the city’s enforcement system, Walt succeeded in keeping our neighborhood a good family environment."

Now comes another version of what happened in a letter from John Burckart, the owner of the house at issue. "While I do agree that the 'hard work' and diligence put forth by Walt Eilers (eradicated) any college students from his neighborhood, his methods and actions were unbefitting a leader empowered with influence requiring ethical behavior, tolerance, open-mindedness and an even-tempered disposition. The 'diplomacy' referred to that Walt 'initially used,' amounted to telling me that college students were 'not welcome here' and this was a 'family neighborhood.' My attempts at 'diplomacy' were to assure him that I was about to make substantial improvements to the home, thus enhancing property values, and that these young men were all honor students involved in student government, philanthropy and other worthwhile endeavors. While they are not unsociable, they do deserve respect and the benefit of the doubt. Walt's reply was, 'I don't care who they are, if they are students they don't belong here.'

"After receiving threatening letters and e-mails," Burckark said, "I hired a Fayetteville attorney. Initially, there were five men living in the 5-bedroom home, one of which was my son. Walt initially told me it was against the covenants for renters to live there, and that the covenants wouldn't allow that many people, both of which I found out were false. We learned later that there was an obscure city ordinance that prohibited more than three 'unrelated' persons living in the same household. Though our attorney offered a high degree of hope for defeating this in court, we decided to have two young men move out. Before we could ask them to move, they gave us notice because of the constant intimidation of Walt yelling and screaming at them as they walked out to their cars in the mornings. Walt called the city police on several occasions only to be told 'they are doing nothing wrong.' Walt did succeed in getting one of their cars ticketed for parking along the curb when there was also seven other cars at other homes parked along the curb that went un-ticketed.

"Ms. Melton's article painting us as the intruding, law-violating, bad neighbors and Walt as the saint and savior of Waterman Woods needed setting the record straight," Burckart explained. "Fayetteville is a college town. My wife and I are university alumni and both our children, born in Fayetteville, are currently attending the university. We love Fayetteville for its quality of life and diversity. While Ms. Melton claims Walt is 'supportive of our college students' and 'wants to involve them in the community,' my son, while living next door to Walt, has actually involved himself in the community by raising over 50,000 cans of food for the local shelter, as well as several other philanthropic endeavors over several years. I guess Walt's willing to 'support' these college students as long as they are 'not in his back yard.' If actions speak louder than words, then Walt Eilers should be more interested in leading in a town devoid of a college atmosphere. Fayetteville cannot afford a mayor who will 'just get it...' wrong!"

There are usually at least two sides to every story. This one is just getting more attention in the letters to the local newspaper because it involves a candidate for mayor. As they say at Faux News, "We report. You decide."

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