CINCINNATI — A Clermont County judge found Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans in contempt of court, and ordered him to pay $1,000 per day until he shuts down illegal businesses that are operating on Mt. Carmel Road land that is zoned for open space and agriculture.
The contempt order, signed by Common Pleas Judge Kevin Miles on Feb. 14, chastised Evans for disobeying his earlier preliminary injunction to close illegal tenant businesses such as landscaping companies, that have been operating inside structures built to look like red barns.
Since ordinary civil penalties would not be enough to “coerce” Evans to comply, Miles wrote that he would fine him $1,000 per day for each day the violations persist.
The Union Township land is zoned as estate residential — which typically is a large lot with a bigger home, long driveway and perhaps a small building like a pool house, said land use attorney Sean Suder, who has no ties to this case, in an earlier interview with WCPO.
“It’s illegal and unpermitted … they’re not even supposed to have those buildings on the parcel,” said Jason Gordon, who is suing Evans and his holding company, Mt. Carmel Farms LLC, which owns the 4370 Mt. Carmel Road property next to Gordon's home.
When Gordon and his wife, Nicole, built a log cabin in rural Union Township in 2005, they were surrounded by woodlands and wildlife.
That changed when an elderly neighbor sold 11.7 acres of family farmland to Evans in 2012.
Gordon claims Evans stripped thousands of trees to build an industrial park. Since then, he said more than 100 vehicles a day, including tractor trailers and dump trucks, drove by his house, often at high speeds, causing dust, noise and damage to his gravel easement.
“I just want my peace and quiet back,” Gordon said.
He sued Evans in February 2020 over the zoning dispute. As the case moves toward trial, the judge issued a preliminary injunction on Oct. 4 ordering Evans to remove the illegal businesses.
A week after the judge’s order, Union Township also took action. A zoning inspector sent Evans a letter on Oct. 12 that his property was not in compliance.
“I found a total of 11 detached accessory buildings with nine of those structures being located in Union Township. There are no permits on file for any of those structures … there are no approvals or authorization for any of these unpermitted/illegal businesses, so they all must cease any/all activities and vacate the property,” wrote inspector Scott Burkey, who gave Evans until Oct. 27 to correct violations or face further legal action.
In response to questions from WCPO, Union Township Administrator Susan Ayers wrote, “We have actively been working with Mr. Evans to resolve the township concerns. While those matters are pending, I will not be able to provide additional comment.”
An attorney and spokesperson for Evans did not return requests for comment.
Evans, 60, is a well-known entrepreneur who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck. He now employs 250 at operations that range from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stone works.
He is also one of Newtown’s largest property owners, part owner of Ivy Hills Country Club, and controls vast swaths of land under different holding companies in Hamilton and Clermont counties, including parcels that adjoin Gordon’s land.
These zoning issues are the latest in a string of legal troubles for Evans.
Evans was released from prison last December after serving six months for minority contracting fraud, followed by several months of house arrest.
Last year, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a $550,000 settlement with Evans to clean up illegal waste at three Evans Landscaping and gravel facilities near Newtown.
Less than three months later, health officials say he violated that court order.
Hamilton County health officials sent a notice of violation to Evans on Dec. 16. more than a month after crews dug test pits at his Broadwell Road facility in Anderson Township to determine the scope of the buried waste.
Afterward Evans removed and properly disposed of the stockpiled construction and demolition debris, according to a statement from spokesman Nick Vehr who said the company is, “working diligently to implement the activities required under the consent order with Hamilton County Public Health and Ohio EPA.”
In the zoning dispute case, the judge had ordered Evans to remove tenant businesses by Dec. 5.
When that didn’t happen, Gordon filed a motion for contempt a week later.
Miles held an evidentiary hearing on Jan. 25 and ultimately sided with Gordon, granting his contempt motion.
“Following the court’s preliminary injunction, (Evans) eventually ceased several prohibited activities on the property. There is no longer an automotive repair business, steel fabricating business, a concrete sawing business, Worldwide Graphics and Apparel, or A&A Safety operating,” Miles wrote. “However, MUST Landscaping and American Landscaping still operate … each business has work trucks outside of their respective rented buildings. There is also evidence of Evans Landscaping vehicles that have remained.”
Miles wrote that work trucks, excavators, snowplows, shipping containers, salt storage and other miscellaneous items are still on the land. Gordon testified that he continues to see a high volume of traffic on the easement in front of his house.
At the Jan. 25 hearing, the defense argued that these landscaping businesses may be used for agriculture once spring arrives, making them legal uses for the land.
“But the fact of the matter is that the defense did not present any evidence to demonstrate that the landscaping businesses are using (Evans’) property in an agricultural capacity right now,” the judge wrote.
Defense attorneys also argued that Evans tried to comply with the judge’s order by moving equipment that had been stored outside to the inside of buildings. But the judge disagreed.
“Using the property for business storage, irrespective of whether its indoors or outside, contravenes the preliminary injunction,” Miles wrote. “Not only does storage violate the court’s express order against storage businesses but having businesses store materials on the property is not a permitted use under … the Union Township Zoning Resolution.”
The judge wants Evans to remove businesses that are not agricultural, remove all storage units and shipping container, and remove all work trucks, excavators, snowplows, and salt storage.
He is also ordering Evans to pay for Gordon’s legal costs in the contempt action. He set an April 21 hearing to determine if Evans has purged his contempt.
In the meantime, Clermont County officials continue to investigate complaints at the Evans’ parcels near Mt. Carmel Road for clearing more than an acre of trees without a permit and rerouting a stream.
“The building department is aware of and is in the process of investigating the extent and severity of multiple potential building code and water management and sediment control violations. We are currently moving forward through the statutory and administrative enforcement process with hope and expectation that the potential violations will be remedied without delay,” said county spokesman Mike Boehmer.
Evans Contempt Order From Judge Miles by paula christian on Scribd