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Valley council introduces junker ordinance

VALLEY — The Valley City Council on Monday held the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would provide for the abatement and removal of junk vehicles as public nuisances.

The ordinance could be approved upon a second reading at the next council meeting, which will be taking place on Feb. 8.

The city had such an ordinance several years back, but it was thrown out in court. The new proposal is an attempt to accomplish the same goals while being acceptable in court.

The proposed ordinance is four pages in length and seeks to limit the outdoor storage of junked and inoperable vehicles for the purpose of protecting property values and the general appearance of residential neighborhoods as a whole.

Junked or inoperative vehicles can include automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, RVs, campers, travel trailers, boat trailers, utility trailers and any other vehicle that can move or be moved on a public right of way.

The ordinance would prohibit anyone from storing or keeping in the open any inoperable vehicle on either public or private property. The city’s code enforcement officer, and any police officer, can order in writing any owner, lessee or occupant of the property to have such a vehicle removed in five days. Notice to remove will be attached to any such vehicles.  The notice will state that the vehicle has been determined to be a public nuisance, that the owner has five days to remove it or have it stored in a completely enclosed building. The owner of the vehicle will be responsible for all expenses incurred in moving the vehicle. The owner may request in writing a hearing before the city council to discuss the matter. A meeting can be scheduled within 14 days. The owner can then discuss why the vehicle that’s been tagged should not be considered a public nuisance, why removal should not take place or can present a plan for abating the vehicle within a certain time period.

Once the five-day period has elapsed and the vehicle has not been removed or stored in an enclosed building, no written request for a hearing has been made, the city can act to remove the vehicle.

Any person who is required to have a vehicle removed can be charged with a misdemeanor. Each day the 0ffense continues can be considered a separate misdemeanor.

There are a list of exemptions. A vehicle with a current license plate that temporarily cannot be driven can remain on private property for not longer than 30 days is exempt. There’s an exemption for places of business engaged in the wrecking of junked vehicles. There’s also an exemption for collectors of antique, vintage, historic, classic, muscle cars and special interest vehicles that are being restored. They must be in an area not readily visible by the public.

Mayor Leonard Riley said there’s a clear need for this kind of ordinance in the city. He said he knows of one situation where they must be at least 10 junk vehicles in someone’s front yard, and their house can’t be seen from the road.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter said there will be some confusion caused by the fact some existing junkyards on or near the city right of way are partly in the city and partly out of it. He said there are some situations where junk cars are being kept on property that’s zoned residential. “It’s being used like it was in a commercial zone,” he said.

Council Member Kendall Andrews asked if a place with junk cars on Columbus Road near McGinty’s Crossing had a business license. City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Snowden said that it did.