Lot violation divides city council

Pictured is the lot in question at 702 Ashley Road in east Craig.
Ashley Dishman/Craig Daily Press

Craig City Council oversaw a contentious public hearing Tuesday involving an appeal request regarding a violation correction notice.

Building Inspector Marlin Eckhoff briefed City Council on the violation, saying that he notified Ronald and Jessica Baker on Oct. 24 about an alleged violation related to the presence of “some commercial equipment (and) personal items — vehicle, trailer, that sort of thing — and a 40 foot metal storage container” on their undeveloped residential lot at 702 Ashley Road.

Eckhoff explained the city typically tries to prevent undeveloped lots from turning into “storage yards.” He said that the matter was coming before City Council because the Bakers appealed the violation.

Council opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak to the matter before the vote. Jenny Meyer said she and her husband, Dave, have been longtime residents of the neighborhood and she believes the Bakers’ lot “resembled an industrial site.”

She cautioned that if City Council granted the appeal, it would pave the way for additional unsanctioned equipment, vehicles and containers to be housed not only at the property in question, but throughout other residential areas in Craig, as she asked city leaders to acknowledge, enforce and “not set a precedent to continue a downward trend of violations, hazards and trash.”

Dave Meyer concurred with his wife, stating his belief that lowered standards would make it harder to “maintain clean, safe communities.”

Neighbor Walter Stevens cut right to the chase with his comments.

“I think 30 days is too long with the weather getting ready to set in,” he told the council, referencing the Bakers’ current window for removing the storage container. “I think you have the tools in your toolbox that you can give him 72 hours to get that thing off of there or face the fine. That should be imposed immediately.”

Jamie Tipton also offered brief remarks, sharing her concern about how the Bakers’ property might influence the depreciation of her own — which she is currently attempting to sell.

Tipton’s next door neighbor, Adrienne Reeves, also addressed City Council via Zoom. She argued that no “typical home-building activities” were in evidence on the lot that would necessitate the presence of the large container and equipment.

Following remarks from the neighbors, Ronald and Jessica Baker spoke. Ronald Baker said the lot was his second residential purchase in Craig, and he originally intended on building a home on the site. However, he acknowledged that he had not secured a building permit and that there was merit to the violation.

“We’re not here to contest it,” he said. “We’re here to ask for some time to make things right.”

Baker added that he no longer wants to build a house on the property, and he called the process “kind of a B.S. deal,” alleging that his lot was “organized” and “very clean” compared to others around town.

Baker asked council members for a temporary permit or stay that would provide additional time for the relocation of the container. “It’s going to take some time and money to move that,” he said.

Baker also asked City Council to consider that he is attempting to buy a third property in Craig.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he said. “I think it’s sort of a piss-poor deal when you’ve got a community that complains — there’s a lot with the city’s name on it that has trailers parked there — I think I at least ought to be able to keep my trailers there until I find something to do with it.”

He shared his current plan is to sell the lot in the spring and “let somebody else deal with this.”

Jessica Baker added that “a sizable expense” went into placing the container on the lot, and she said they would be facing another large expense to remove it. Ronald Baker estimated their loss in the $3,000-$4,000 range.

But he reiterated that he wasn’t fighting the violation.

“I should have been smart enough not to take somebody else in this community’s word,” he said, regarding his initial belief that he was in compliance.

Following public remarks, Eckhoff provided more context about the nature of the violation.

He said a container of that size typically wouldn’t be allowed on a residential lot even if there was a residence in place. Smaller containers under 200 square feet have historically been allowed if there is a home on the lot and the container is not stored on the front lawn. He noted in instances where “junk vehicles, unlicensed vehicles and all that” are present on a residential lot with an existing residential structure, it would be a code enforcement issue rather than a zoning violation.

Eckhoff also relayed that his office has previously received multiple calls from Steamboat residents enquiring about purchasing Craig’s “significantly cheaper” undeveloped residential lots in order to house their large personal items such as boats and campers.

Eckhoff described his response to such enquiries as a “hard no” in order to keep Craig’s residential neighborhoods from becoming storage yards.

As the discussion continued and things got heated, Mayor Derek Duran took the opportunity to remind those present that City Council had heard the facts of the case.

Responding to a question, Eckhoff maintained his belief that 30 days was a reasonable window for the Bakers to remove the container from the lot.

Council member Chris Nichols worried that if the Bakers didn’t move the container soon, “it’s going to be stuck there for the winter,” but Eckhoff warned that the consequence of non-compliance for the Bakers could bring a fine of up to $1,000 for every day past the 30-day deadline without removal.

Eckhoff concluded that in the event that Baker’s appeal was rejected, “it would be advantageous for him before he started incurring fines to move (the container) if at all possible.”

Nichols then moved to uphold the violation notice and was seconded by council member Randy Looper.

With nothing else to say but aye or nay, council members voted. Following the count, the violation notice was upheld with Nichols, Duran and Looper voting in favor, and Vicki Huyser and Jesse Jackson voting against while Tom Kleinschnitz abstained from voting.

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