A property owner operated a business variously described as a flea market, a second‑hand store, and a repair service for lawnmowers and tillers. After the city inspected his property, it cited him for violating a public nuisance ordinance, listing a variety of items ranging from baby strollers to automobile seats. The property owner argued that the city ordinance against an “unsightly appearance” was so hard to pin down as to be unenforceable. The state supreme court, however, rejected his argument.
The challenge to the ordinance rested on the contention that the term “unsightly” is so vague that a reasonable person could not know which conditions were prohibited and which were not. The city’s winning response to this argument was that the court was not to look at the ordinance section on “unsightly appearance” in a vacuum, but was required to consider it in the context of the entire public nuisance ordinance.
The city had the power to prohibit conditions that debase the appearance and character of its neighborhoods. An ordinance regulating aesthetic conditions must use some general terms because it is impossible to describe every conceivable circumstance that the ordinance is meant to address.
Ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.