Some Craig residents have been disappointed at the turnout for public meetings.
That's may have been because they didn't use two magic words.
These words prompted 45 residents to pack themselves into the Moffat County Courthouse Annex Tuesday to voice their opinions and concerns on how, and if, a junk ordinance would work for Moffat County. The Moffat County Planning Commission invited the public to its meeting to comment on the possibility of adopting a junk ordinance
"This is the first public meeting about the idea of a county junk ordinance, and we're here to ask some questions, write your responses down, and gather information," Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. "This is the first of many, many meetings. "The intent this evening is to get ideas on how we can go forward on this."
Planning Commission members and the County Commissioners will use the ideas and opinions offered to create a proposal, which would be brought back to the public for more meetings.
"The process of creating that proposal would take a minimum of six to eight months," Raftopoulos said. "We've had many complaints from citizens about certain areas of the community, and we need to create a plan that is reasonable, sensible and works for Moffat County," Raftopoulos said.
Frank Self, co-chairman of the Planning Commission, opened the meeting with a question: "How many feel the county needs a junk ordinance?"
Residents who attended favored having an ordinance by three to one.
The first segment of the meeting addressed was what how junk would be defined and residents offered many possible, and different, definitions.
More than three unlicensed cars" should count as junk, resident Mike Hansen said.
He also suggested that the process be labeled a nuisance ordinance, because the legal definition of a nuisance is much broader than the legal definition of junk.
Glenda Bellio said "anything that blows over, runs over, or impedes people getting to their property should be labeled junk."
Lonnie Streeter said the community was opening a big can of worms by trying to deal with the issue.
"I'm a car man, and to me 'junk' cars aren't junk," he said. "Old horse barns that are falling down, even though they are still used, that's junk to me. Those tractors and cars sitting on a lot could be worth $3,000 to $4,000 each, but might look like junk."
"If three or more neighbors say its an eyesore, than it's an eyesore, and should be labeled junk," Kandi Kropinak said.
Some residents felt the location of a residence should be considered when trying to define junk.
Kasia Stevens said there should be different requirements for residential and commercial areas. Gene Updike agreed, but said that a rural zone should be added, saying all three types of zones should be handled differently.
Others suggested different factors in defining junk, including distance from population centers, whether the items were in plain view, and how junk will be distinguished from trash.
Protecting private property
"We pride ourselves in Northwest Colorado in protecting property rights, and no one on this board wants to change that," Self said. "How do balance the rights of property owners with the communities needs?"
Allen Hischke said that if a certain percentage of people around a residence complain, it should be considered a problem and handled as such. If the surrounding properties are devalued, that should fairly trigger the ordinance, Kropinak said.
The idea of fencing in the offending items or sites was raised several times, but was not well supported.
"I didn't move to Moffat County to be fenced in," Delia Eisenhower said.
"Besides, fences can look junky too."
The issues of health and safety were offered as balancing elements, as was again the amount of visibility the community had.
Jim Jensen favored a mediation process through which neighbors deal with each other or surrounding communities without the involvement of the county.
"Instead of one person, I think a two- to three-person committee should decide each case," Bobbi Peed said.
Lloyd Powers agreed, and said each community should have a board made up of residents of the area.
Enforcing the penalties of a junk ordinance should be a process that allows for appeals, many residents stated.
Others suggested that those who complain, or sign petitions of complaint, should have to be part of the solution, which could include helping to pay for the clean up, to being required to have a dialogue with the neighbor in question.
Using the Moffat County Sheriff's Department to enforce the ordinance was suggested, but most meeting attendees didn't favor the solution.
Eisenhower said she didn't want her taxes raised to pay for additional officers or workers to patrol for the proposed ordinance.
"We already have the personnel that can cover these duties within our department," said Sue Graler, director of the Moffat County Planning Department.
Many questions were left unanswered, such as where some of the things labeled junk would be taken and whether the county should provide hauling services or a place to dispose of some of the items that couldn't go in a landfill. This was expected by the Planning Commission and the County Commissioners, and is one of the reasons that the process will be prolonged.
"The members run the Planning Commission on a common sense, neighborly basis, because here in Moffat County, we still live as neighbors," Raftopoulos said.
"We want to work with people, and we're asking you, the residents, to help us work out what Moffat County wants and needs for a junk ordinance," she said. "And we'll continue to do so for this entire process."
The next step is for an ordinance to be drafted and then brought before the residents in meetings and hearings for more input and debate.