junky pownal

Pownal is discussing a proposed new ordinance to target junk, refuse, solid waste, debris and other materials left in view on some properties.

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POWNAL — Pownal is trying once again to require residents to remove junk, refuse, solid waste, debris and similar materials from view from roadways or neighboring properties.

Debate on the topic has roiled the town several times over the past three or more decades. Recent complaints about refuse and other materials left in yards — especially along Route 7 and Route 346 in view of passing motorists — prompted the new effort.

After considerable discussion before the Planning Commission, a draft ordinance has emerged that targets the open storage of junk items and adds fines for violations.

DRAFT PROPOSAL

The draft, largely written by commission members Megan Randall and Michelle Pekrol and based in part on model ordinances used elsewhere, has been under discussion during recent meetings.

The commission members are expected to present the proposal to the Select Board for review and possible adoption. The board also could reject the proposal or set up a process for further review.

During a Feb. 1 meeting, the commission went over the draft version, proposing some revisions, before members agreed verbally to present it to the Select Board at a future meeting.

The draft initially had a provision targeting tag sale items or commercial flea market materials left out for extended periods, Randall said.

After more discussion, the commission decided to discard that provision, and to leave regulation of any commercial flea markets to the Development Review Board, which would have to approve permits for such a business, and to any state health or other regulations that might apply.

OWNER ‘DUTIES’

Randall and Pekrol said the draft ordinance emphasizes the “duties and responsibilities” of property owners or occupants for complying with terms specified in the provisions.

That includes a section stating, “It shall be the responsibility of each owner, agent, occupant, or lessee to keep his or her property free of litter, refuse, garbage, junk, solid waste and trash. He or she shall be responsible for removing litter, refuse, garbage, junk, junk motor vehicles in excess of [three], solid waste or trash accumulating on said property.”

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In addition, the ordinance prohibits “the storage or accumulation of litter, refuse, garbage, junk, waste or trash on the exterior of said property outside of a receptacle that is covered, secured, and maintained so as to prevent blowing, spilling, scattering or leaking of the contents therein. Whereas plastic bags, even when tied, are subject to animal invasion and/or degradation by weather, they do not constitute a covered and secured receptacle, thus accumulation of bags containing trash is not permitted.”

Similar requirements are included for areas surrounding a property owned by a business or institution.

Such material that is stored outdoors could be screened. The ordinance states: “If owner agent, occupant, or lessee deems above-named material to be of use or value, he or she is required to screen it from view of traveled way and abutting property.”

ENFORCEMENT

The health officer, zoning administrator or a police officer appointed by the Select Board would be required to inspect the property if a complaint is received. A written notice could then be issued by the official, and a property owner would have 30 days to eliminate the problem before being considered in violation of the ordinance.

Among definitions in the draft ordinance are for the term “junk,” which means “old or scrap copper, brass, iron, steel, and other old or scrap or nonferrous material including, but not limited to, rope, rags, batteries, glass, rubber debris, waste, trash, discarded household furnishings such as couches, chairs, tables, appliances, or any discarded, dismantled, wrecked, scrapped, or ruined motor vehicle or parts thereof.”

“Solid waste” is defined as “any discarded garbage, refuse, septage, sludge from a waste treatment plant, water supply plant, or pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous materials resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, or agricultural operation and from community activities but does not include animal manure and absorbent bedding used for soil enrichment; high carbon bulking agents used in composting; or solid or dissolved materials in industrial discharges which are point sources subject to permits under [state law]. For the purpose of this ordinance, solid waste shall also include marketable recyclables.”

“Screening” in the ordinance means “fencing, shrubs, trees or outbuildings so as to hide junk from the view of abutting households or traveled way.”

“Waste” is defined as “a material that is discarded or is being accumulated, stored, or physically, chemically, or biologically treated prior to being discarded or has served its original intended use and is normally discarded.”

During the commission discussion, the use of an ordinance and possible ticketing and fines to control the problem was seen as possibly similar and less costly than attempting to enforce compliance through a zoning bylaw violation notice, which allows for lengthy appeals.

The commissioners also suggested that some of the problems in town might be dealt with by the health officer through violation of health or safety regulation notices.

At one point in the discussion, commission member Jim Winchester said the draft proposal is a “small” but positive first step in the review process, which allows for future revisions as needed.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com


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