Pownal Select Board considering possible junk ordinance

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POWNAL — The Select Board is expected to consider implementing a junk ordinance, part of a renewed effort to clean up the community.

At its meeting Thursday night, the board heard from Town Administrator Michael Walker, who drafted the ordinance.

"We've been getting an awful lot of people coming in complaining about junk, trash," he said. "They key to this is you have to have the enforcement. Just having the ordinance, in and of itself, doesn't do anything."

Walker told the board the town will post for a zoning administrator, as the current term expires this summer.

Nelson Brownell, who was elected to the Bennington, Pownal/Woodford House district seat in November, currently holds the position; he is allowed to re-apply.

The zoning administrator would enforce a junk ordinance, if one is put in place, Walker said.

Currently, this issue is covered under Section 8.9.2 of the town's zoning bylaws, "Place for Accumulation and Storage of materials."

That section prohibits "junk or inoperable" motor vehicles without valid registration and/or inspection from being stored on any lot, except by a licensed and permitted dealership or repair business, in excess of 30 days where visible from a state or town highway.

It also requires scrap or waste material stored at a solid waste disposal area or within a building or outside to be "fully concealed" from view.

Generally speaking, this section does not define junk as well as it would be defined in an ordinance, Walker said Friday.

An ordinance would have succinct legal language that defines "junk or not junk," he said.

"An ordinance would actually use legal definitions, legal precedent to define that," he said.

At the meeting, the board raised some concerns about the proposed ordinance, including unregistered vehicles.

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Chairman Bryan Harris said he knows people who do demolition derbies and have unregistered vehicles in their yard that they prep for those events.

He said he'd like to see an exception to allow "one or two" unregistered vehicles in a yard.

Harris said he also knows some people get a junk car, for parts, to enable them to keep their current vehicle running.

"There's an argument to say if it's your property, it's your business," said Bob Jarvis, a member of the board. "We need to be very mindful of that."

Walker said "you hang your hat" on the legal definition of junk.

Jarvis expressed concern about possible lack of enforcement, or inconsistent enforcement, of current rules.

"We have a new opportunity," Walker responded. "Decide what you want to do, how you want to do it."

Board member Marlena Pellon expressed concern about what she said was a lack of consistency in enforcing current requirements.

"That's where the legal ramifications [come in]," she said.

When reached Friday, Walker said he wanted to make it clear that the town is "not going out as if [we're] stormtroopers."

"We have received multiple requests — I have received multiple requests — that we start cleaning up the town," he said. "The approach I want to take, the approach I have taken, is approaching a person, saying, `hey look, you have garbage around your home — what can we do to help you?"

Walker said he also did not want to give the impression that town residents would wake up to a new ordinance in just a few days. It's a long process, with public feedback, and it requires approval by the Select Board, he said.

"This isn't something that's going to happen at lightning speed," he said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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