Council considers tougher stance

City may strengthen enforcement against junk, weeds

Code Enforcement Officer Becky Otis said the major complaint she receives is about junk vehicles. She said many people have old vehicles parked around their houses, and she's been warning some owners for three years to move the cars with no results.

That's why she is looking forward to a new way to deal with the old cars.

Craig City Council read an introduction Tuesday night to make changes to the city's code that would allow for tougher enforcement against landowners that have allowed their property to become a nuisance.

Tall weeds, junk cars or trash around a property is reason enough to receive a citation from the city's code enforcement officer.

Penalties assessed for failing to correct the violation include $150 for the first citation, $250 for the second and $300 for the third. Paying the fine does not excuse the failure to correct the violation, and more fines can follow.

After receiving notice, if the tougher code enforcement is approved, the landowner would have 10 days to fix the situation or five days to appeal the citation.

The only appeal would be that the code enforcement officer exceeded their authority. The city bears the burden of proof to establish the existence of a violation of the code.

If nothing had changed at the end of 10 days, the city would pay to clean up the site, and the landowner would be billed for the work. If the property owner refused to pay the bill, a lien would be placed against the property by the city.

The reason for the changes comes from some nuisance cases taking more than a year in court, Otis said.

If the council approves the changes, instead of a citation going through the municipal court system, the citation would be handled through an administrative hearing process, in which the city would clean the problem area and charge the landowner.

The administrative hearing officer will likely be a licensed Colorado attorney with at least three years experience, possibly the associate municipal judge or a qualified individual appointed by the judge.

Kathy Kolbaba protested the plan at Tuesday's meeting. She has lived on her property for 25 years and has already had to build fence around three sides of her land. "I don't think I should have to get rid of my cars," Kolbaba said. "I already built a 10-foot tall fence that backs up to a 40-foot ditch."

Her neighbors are forcing her to fence the remaining side of her land, in a much tougher area to fence. Residents of new modular units can see into Kolbaba's yard, and she knows the tougher code enforcement would cost her.

The first reading of the changes to the municipal code likely will come at the next Craig City Council meeting April 11.

Craig City Council on Tuesday night also decided to look at cracking down on the number of false alarms that the Craig Police Department officers respond to at businesses.

"We go through a lot of false alarms," police Chief Walt Vanatta said at Tuesday's Craig City Council meeting. "Sometimes it's employee error, sometimes they have a cat inside, and some alarms just go off."

Currently, owners aren't fined until the fourth false alarm, but that may change if the City Council approves tougher fines for owners that have repeat false alarms."We have to send two officers to an alarm," Vanatta said. "Sometimes the responsible party won't even come down once we find out it's a false alarm."

The City Council also:

Approved a liquor license for Wallie's restaurant

Accepted public comment on water treatment plant improvements; no one commented

Heard a presentation on Yampa Valley Regional Airport's mountain radar system

Approved purchase of a service body for a Parks and Recreation Department pickup

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