FARMINGTON – A property containing what is considered under state law and town ordinances to be an illegal junkyard on High Street was cleaned up Tuesday, ending a situation that had existed for years.
A town crew was able to clean up the front yard of the the property at 202 High Street in a matter of hours, according to Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser. He has worked since October 2006, when he sent letters to the residence’s owner, Paula Allen Nielsen, informing her that the large amount of material on her property was not legal under either the Town of Farmington ordinance or state law governing junkyards and automobile scrap yards.
Nielsen was eventually given a chance to appear before selectmen in November 2007, after more than a year of letters being sent by Kaiser without a response. She told the selectmen, who were generally sympathetic to the situation, that the material in her yard was not junk but items she intended to be reused and recycled for those in need.
Selectmen decided against declaring the home a “dangerous building,” a harsher measure, and instead gave Nielsen 30 days to clean up her property. She agreed to sign a letter of consent, stating that she would make immediate improvements in the amount of material in her yard. Kaiser estimated between 30 and 40 cubic yards existed at that time.
However, while Nielsen did remove some material, a sizable amount remained well beyond the deadline. Finally, the town sought a court order which was issued on June 10, to have a public work crew go in and remove the material. An attempt to clean up the property Monday was cancelled after she requested a hearing to ask for more time. That request was denied by a judge, and town workers arrived at the property Tuesday morning with dumpsters and a bucket loader.
“We don’t get into these situations very often,” Kaiser said. “We try to respect people’s right to do what they want on their property against the ordinances and laws.”
He said the speed in which the crew dispatched the estimated 10 to 20 cubic yards of material should keep the costs of the clean up down. Nielsen is responsible for those costs, as well as the money spent on legal actions to force the removal of the material.
A tent has been erected on the yard, containing the more valuable objects, by Nielsen. Kaiser said that the temporary structure meets all setbacks and will be allowed to remain for the time being.
“I tried to strike a balance,” he said. He noted that the court orders issued in June and July would give him the authority to remove the small amount of remaining material if the situation worsens again.
He was also sympathetic to her desire to try and help people through recycling used goods, but there are better places to store material than front yards.
“There’s a need for reuse, but it needs to be in the right place,” he said. “You can accumulate things bit by bit and end up with a mass of stuff without really realizing it.”