Friday, January 4, 2013

Hulen Meadows landscaping encroaches on county

County: We will enforce the right of way

Express Staff Writer

Homeowners in Hulen Meadows who have landscaping encroaching on the county’s right of way will be asked to make changes, county staff said Wednesday.

Blaine County Operations Director Char Nelson said during a public meeting that a large number of residents in the Hulen Meadows neighborhood north of Ketchum have landscaping or other features such as fences that are on county property on either side of the roads. Nelson said the encroachments cause problems because they interfere with snow removal, road maintenance and driver safety.

“The roads are extremely narrow [in winter],” she said. “There is no place to put the snow, so it sits in the road and melts and creates sheets of ice. It has been a difficult situation.”

Nelson said 180 homes have right-of-way violations. So far only 41 have been notified of the issue because of the lengthy process of officially documenting and mailing encroachment notices. She said county staff is slowly visiting each site, taking pictures of the violations and sending out letters. Most of the letters were sent in November, she said.

Only 27 people have responded to the 41 notices. Nelson said most residents contacted were agreeable—25 either removed or said they would remove the landscaping features.

Nelson said two residents, however, refused to comply with the county’ request, and she expects that other residents will feel the same way once all properties have been noticed.

“A couple of residents do not feel it’s their responsibility to remove the encroachments,” she said.

She added that one resident requested that the county survey his property and prove he was violating the right of way, while another said the encroachment existed when he bought the house and should not be his responsibility.

Idaho code states that encroaching on a public right of way is punishable by a fine of up to $150 per day that the violation exists. Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves said Wednesday that the code is somewhat “nebulous,” and that a judge could decide not to allow a fine.

However, he added, the county still has the right to enforce its right of way.

“Certainly we have the legal ability to go in and force these rights of way,” he said. “We are not in this necessarily to make things more convenient for property owners. We need to make sure the roads are maintained safely and efficiently.”

Graves said the county could go in and forcibly remove the encroachments, and bill the homeowner for the service. If the homeowner refuses to pay, the county would file a lawsuit for payment.

Schoen said the county should not be afraid to aggressively enforce the right-of-way rules.

“The reason is not to be mean to homeowners, it’s to be fair to all homeowners,” he said, pointing out that most homeowners have already removed items from the right of way or said they would.

Nelson said she and Graves would draft a letter that would demand compliance or a written statement that says the homeowner intends to comply with the right of way within 10 days of the letter’s receipt. The timing of that letter will be determined later this month.  

Kate Wutz:


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