Cavendish looks at enforcing old junkyard ordinance

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At its Aug. 9 meeting, the Cavendish Select Board discussed the enforcement of its 15-year-old “junkyard ordinance” and got some push back from one resident who says he was unfairly singled out under the law when others in town were not.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara introduces the subject of enforcing the junkyard ordinance. Photos courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

Brendan McNamara told the board that in the nearly five years he has been town manager he has never enforced the ordinance and he was concerned about how to do it going forward. He said that the enforcement had to be fair and that the town should evaluate all of its properties for compliance rather than a few that people notice.

“Proper notification and communication with the public is vital,” said McNamara, adding that there should be people appointed to evaluate the 1,400 properties in town. Acting as chair of the meeting, Mike Ripley thought the town health officer should be involved.

McNamara and Ripley agreed that the time was too short to do much of anything this fall and, when the snow flies, cleaning up a property will be more difficult. However, they agreed, the winter could be an opportunity to get the word out about the upcoming enforcement.

Board member Stephen Plunkard was concerned about the economic impact on both neighbors of junk-laden properties as well as people who own those properties. He noted having a junkyard next door can drastically devalue one’s property, if it can be sold at all.

Proctorsville resident Duane Warren tells the board he was singled out in the past because his property is on Main Street

“A lot of people in Cavendish’s only equity is in their house,” said Plunkard. “This is a property rights issue for the people with the junkyard and with the neighbors.”

Plunkard also suggested contacting the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to see what other municipalities do.

Duane Warren said that he had been singled out in the past.

“I’m the bad guy because I’m on Main Street,” said Warren.  “It won’t happen again, I won’t let it.” Warren said he would “go scorched earth,” but that he would rather get along than not.

Ripley said it would be on the next agenda when the board would plan for advertising the enforcement and planning for spring.

Plunkard told Warren that he should have a plan, at which point Warren erupted in laughter and said he was “done with this.” Board members explained that what Plunkard had meant was that if he could not make a cleanup deadline but had a plan the town could work with him.

Members also said they would have to look at helping older and ill residents clean up their properties too.




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  1. Tim Roper says:

    I see two valid sides to this discussion, but I only hear about the “eyesore” aspect of people having collections of “stuff” on their properties. The tool used to control and punish folks who collect stuff on their own property seems to always be the same, the potential impact on neighboring property values.

    When did owning a property start to include any legal responsibility to behave only in ways that ensure positive impacts on the value of the neighbors’ properties? Are there any other guarantees around neighbors’ behavior regarding your property value? For instance, should you be able to tell a neighbor what colors to paint their home, or how bright the outdoor lighting can be, or what kind of fencing they can install, or how to landscape their yard? So, while it’s certainly true that the value of one’s home often makes up the bulk of their financial worth, I don’t believe that comes with any requirements for the neighbors to ensure that that value is maintained.

    Considering the collectors’ perspective, I can see how someone’s collection of stuff on their own property could be of great value to them. In fact, for some, those collections could well represent the bulk of their own life savings. Do we have the right to tell someone that they can’t accumulate savings in the form of “stuff,” simply because we don’t like the way it looks? Also, what financial impact does an order to remove their stuff have on the homeowner with a collection? Not only would it cost them the loss of their life savings, but it would also cost them to have it hauled off in one operation, as opposed to holding and selling pieces when market conditions are advantageous to them.

    The bottom line is that everyone has the right to do as they see fit, as long as it’s not interfering with others’ rights to do the same. All investments carry risk. If one wants to have legal restrictions imposed upon their neighbors, they’d be better off living somewhere with a strict homeowners’ association rather than in rural America. Not everyone’s tastes, values and financial situations are the same as our own, and being tolerant of those truths is a big part of what makes a community function.