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Hubbard County lake residents concerned about 'junky yards'

The Hubbard County Board of Commissioners wants county residents to clean up their property. But even taking property owners to court and getting a judge's order to clean up the premises has not worked in the past. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

As Hubbard County continues to tweak amendments to its solid waste ordinance defining what constitutes a junkyard, residents continue to put the heat on to curtail "junky yards."

They are especially offensive in lake areas, some Long Lake residents maintain.

A chronic problem on the lake's southeast shore may get a second look by county prosecutors.

The resident, Thomas Peterson, was briefly jailed a couple years ago and ordered to clean up his lot.

Neighbors have been allegedly threatened by the resident and while they want the mess removed, they do not want to sacrifice their lives getting there, they said Monday.

Some neighbors were granted a two-year restraining order against Peterson. The order has since expired. Peterson maintains he has complied with the clean-up order and that the media is picking on him by publicizing the case.

"Even with an ordinance it's still a problem," commissioner Lyle Robinson said.

"We had a court order against this guy to clean up," board chair Greg Larson said.

But Robinson questioned "If the (present) ordinance is working why do we have this mess?"

"Why do we allow the courts to fail?" questioned commissioner Dick Devine. "If there's a court order it should be taken care of. Why does the county then have to reapply" to bring a landowner into compliance?

But that also goes to the core of the amendments the board is trying to attach to the existing solid waste ordinance.

"There's a difference between a junkyard and a junky yard," Robinson said. "We need to use our resources wisely" to police the problem areas.

"Are we giving a judge something he can sentence with?" Robinson questioned of the amendment that would require collectors of old vehicles, equipment, tires and other unused items to purchase a junkyard license and comply with a state supervised environmental plan.

"Do we really intend for someone with six or seven old cars to have a junkyard license?" questioned commissioner Cal Johannsen.

No, responded solid waste superintendent Vern Massie.

"We want to have a clean and nice-looking county but we don't want to make a criminal of every citizen in the county," Robinson said. "I don't necessarily want farms to be pulled into this."

Otherwise farmers with a collection of plows that are sporadically used might fall under the ordinance to obtain a junkyard license, he said.

The concern is more for lake properties such as the Long Lake scenario, than rural properties, Robinson pointed out.

"This needs to be addressed properly," resident Paul Corson suggested.

"We want to be a lot harsher on lake property and a lot more lenient on rural property" where collections of vehicles and equipment are less noticeable, Robinson said.

Final language in the ordinance will be presented at the July board meeting.

Peterson's case has again been referred to the county attorney for prosecution.