Clintonville resident Robert Geno Centofanti butted heads with Columbus officials and his neighbors for more than two decades over what he called "yard art" -- and what some others called junk -- that he had accumulated over the years.

Centofanti died Oct. 16 at age 68. Now his family is cleaning out his property on Morse Road near High Street.

His house still has two active housing-code violations, issued after code-enforcement officers inspected his property Sept. 11. One was because the exterior of his house had exposed wood that was not painted; the other was for trash on the property.

Cynthia Rickman, spokeswoman for the city's department of development, which oversees code enforcement, said enforcement officers have been working with the family.

"We're satisfied with the progress that they are making," Rickman said.

Centofanti often argued that the items in his yard -- such as a rusted bird cage enclosing a tree stump -- weren't trash, but yard art.

Over the years, that art included pallets, furniture, used car parts, a rubber rat attached to a table and a concrete goose with a television for a head.

"He would make all these almost technical types of arguments. It was not junk, but building materials," said Centofanti's attorney, Gordon Shuler.

"I liked him. I got along," he said. "There were times when he didn't do what I asked him to do."

Centofanti had a long history with the city. Officials filed a case against him in Franklin County Environmental Court in 1998. That year, city crews hauled 50 tons of stuff from his property.

In February 2001, Centofanti barricaded himself inside his house for six hours as Franklin County Sheriff's deputies tried to take him for a court-ordered psychological evaluation.

Columbus police SWAT officers stormed his home. Centofanti didn't fight it. And the hospital let him go home.

In 2004, Centofanti agreed in a consent decree to sell his house and move, with the city waiving $170,000 in fines against him.

But he stayed -- and the city never forced him to move or pay his fines.

In 2014, another complaint was filed against him. The city decided to move against him again so he would clean up his property, reopening the environmental case in 2015.

In March 2016, the case was closed at the city's request.

Former city attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. was the environmental judge 20 years ago.

"(Centofanti) was creating a junkyard in his front yard that had to be cleaned up," Pfeiffer said.

He recalled people telling him they believed Centofanti was being picked on.

"Was it an expression of art or a collection of junk?" he said.

Former Clintonville Area Commission member Paul Bingle said while the sentiment of some in the community was the city should leave Centofanti alone, Bingle was concerned that the clutter attracted rodents.

Mary-Margaret Brown, who lives behind Centofanti's house, said she never had a problem with Centofanti's yard collection.

"He was very conscientious. He didn't want to bother anybody. He just wanted to make his art," Brown said.

Brown remembered Centofanti welding in his yard in winter.

"He liked to reuse everything," she said. "He didn't believe in trash. He thought everything had a purpose."

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik