Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hailey ‘junk ordinance’ takes shape

Parking on the front lawn may come to an end

Express Staff Writer

Keeping up with the Joneses may soon be required by law in Hailey. If neighbors don't approve of the stuff in someone's yard, the person could be hit with a stiff fine by the city.

The City Council heard a first round of public comment Monday night on an expanded nuisance ordinance that would prohibit abandoned vehicles, construction materials, falling-down fences and many other unsightly things on private property.

"This is way overdue," said Councilman Don Keirn, who saw a similar ordinance take shape while he served as a public official in Boise. "It's hard at first, but it made things look better over time."

Mayor Rick Davis instructed city staff to "put more teeth" into an existing nuisance ordinance after the city failed to win a criminal case several years ago against a Hailey resident whose property was allegedly impacting property values nearby.

Several Woodside residents showed up at Hailey City Hall on Monday to support the council in its efforts, circulating photographs of lawns and driveways cluttered with project cars, toys and trailers.

"I'd like to be able to say I live in Woodside and not in the 'hood," said Rebecca Fuller. "We are going to be the next 'Little Tijuana' unless we get the current problems under control."

Jennifer Biondi said the condition of her Woodside neighborhood had declined rapidly since she moved to Hailey from California five years ago.

"Parking on the grass is astonishing," said Biondi, who asked the council to also do something about the noise from car stereos. "You can hear the boom-boom from the highway."

The council agreed to both points, adding a prohibition against lawn parking and increasing the penalty for noise pollution to the same amount resulting from repeated violations of the expanded nuisance ordinance—a $1,000 fine and a possible jail sentence of not more than six months. Councilman Fritz Haemmerle recommended that the council add the option of prosecuting nuisance ordinance offenders immediately rather than having to go through a noticing process. He also advised against the city's removing junk before going to court.

The council agreed with Haemmerle that nuisance ordinance complaints should only be heard by the city from neighbors in close proximity to alleged offenders.

"I like this overall," said Haemmerle, an attorney. "It's a tighter ordinance, enforceable and specific."

Yet some people thought the "junk ordinance" may go too far.

Bob MacLeod said he had an "ancient flywheel" on his property that could be seen as junk by a neighbor.

"My wife thinks it's art," MacLeod said.

Eureka Drive resident Bill Hughes warned the council against enacting ordinances that would eventually result in the "homogenous vision" of the north valley. Hughes said he wanted to keep Hailey "funky."

"It is largely a matter of perception," he said.

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