By Sandy Barnes
Is half a Chevy pick-up truck, which has been sitting on residential property for 11 years, an eyesore requiring regulation by Town ordinance?If the Town moves forward with adopting a junk vehicle ordinance, this truck could be in violation, along with other parked vehicles deemed unacceptable from a visual standpoint.With photos of potential violators in hand, Mayor Tom Patterson initiated a discussion of what to do about them at the Tuesday, Feb. 3 Town Board meeting. “I guess maybe I was motivated because of people who wrote me,” he said. “We’re not looking at picking at people … We have people wanting to move away because of it.”
Patterson said that although it would seem effective to ask people with junk vehicles on their property to remove them, without something on the books, the good neighbor policy doesn’t work.
“Don’t we have ordinances in place to cover vehicles sitting in yards?” Trustee Jeff Hindman asked Police Chief Glenn Johnson.
“We don’t,” Johnson replied. He said the towns in which he previously worked had ordinances against junk vehicles. “It seems like a simple issue from the onset, but when you look at it, it gets complicated,” Johnson remarked.
Trustee John Bauer said that without an ordinance, people could not be asked to move offending vehicles. “What danger does this pose to the community?” he asked. “We’re not an HOA,” he said.
“I know this is a very delicate thing,” said Trustee Glen Buckingham. While looking at the photos provided by the Mayor, Buckingham said he noticed all of the vehicles appeared to be abandoned. ‘It’s a balance,” he added, between the rights of property owners and what is good for the community.
“Anything that looks like a car from 10 feet we shouldn’t worry about,” said Trustee Michael Patrick. “Realistically, what we’re talking about is aesthetics,” he added. “These problems come in all shapes and sizes.”
Patrick and other trustees suggested that Town Attorney Bruce Fickel bring a proposed ordinance about junk vehicles to the Board for consideration.
“I would encourage us to hammer the most egregious violators,” said Mayor Pro Tem David Gregg.
Shepard said he agreed with Gregg that the Town should not “get too heavy-handed” in dealing with junk vehicles.
During their study session, the Board also discussed the upcoming performance evaluation for Town Administrator Jim White, who was not present at the meeting.
Mayor Patterson presented two forms for the trustees to consider using. To maintain continuity, they decided to continue working with the one previously used.
Hindman said he felt it is important to get community feedback from leaders in town-related groups as part of the evaluation process. “I would suggest that we solicit comments,” he said. “I don’t know that we’re calling for a public consensus,” remarked Patrick.
Trustee Bauer also said he would like to have public comments on the evaluation item dealing with citizens’ relations.
Fickel noted that the evaluation should remain quantitative and public comments regarding White’s performance should be presented to the Board in written form.
“I think it should be in writing,” said Hindman. “If they want to come and speak, that would be fine too.”
“I have some trepidation about making this public,” said Buckingham. ‘I’m just a little bit nervous about creating a democracy out of what’s a republic.” White’s evaluation should be in a very private setting, he remarked.
During the discussion of White’s evaluation, Hindman also asked that the Board seek legal counsel from someone other than Town Attorney Bruce Fickel who had also represented White in personal matters. “My understanding is that the Board did not know about prior representations,” he said. “How can the town attorney both represent White and advise us?” he asked.
Fickel said he had represented White twice regarding real estate and traffic matters. The Board decided to seek a legal opinion on the issue from the ethics committee of the state bar association.
During the meeting, trustees also reviewed and evaluated progress in meeting goals they had set for the Town, including the Mountain Avenue project and economic development, which they noted have been largely successful. The goal of entrance way signage also is nearly complete, according to a report from Public Works Director Tony Huerta.
Trustees agreed to discuss the unmet goal of establishing a utility franchise to generate additional revenue for the Town at a future meeting.