January 2, 2005
Thomas Newby and his neighbors awoke early last week to discover that the dirt road in front of their homes was about a foot lower than it had been the day before.
Heavy tire tracks revealed that, sometime during the night, an earthmover had excavated a layer of road on South 196th Street between San Tan Boulevard and Empire Road stretching about a half-mile.
Newby, who lives in the unincorporated area of Maricopa County near Queen Creek, can’t prove who stole the dirt, or why, but he wants it back.
Even more upsetting, he said, is that Maricopa County isn’t willing to help bring the culprit to justice.
"The county says they have no right to stop it," Newby said.
Maricopa County Planning and Development Deputy Director Darren Gerard said that because 196th is on a private easement the county doesn’t have the authority to intervene.
"Unfortunately, it may be something he would have to remedy through the court system," Gerard said.
Planning officials could issue citations for a county code violation, he said, but those would be issued to Newby and his neighbors, because they are technically responsible for the roadway in front of their respective homes.
"It sounds like there very well could be a violation," Gerard said. "They probably need to cooperate to find out who is the responsible party."
Newby and his neighbors have been doing some snooping, and their theory is that a builder in the area may have used the dirt to cover up fissure cracks on nearby property to fool potential buyers into thinking they are purchasing a home on solid ground.
If so, he said, the dirt thief is a liar as well.
"You’re supposed to disclose to the home buyer what’s in the area," Newby said.