Nuisance laws draw fire

"Long before the first meeting of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners was scheduled to commence Jan. 8, myriad classic car enthusiasts from all over the county, having donned their car club jackets, hats and pins, crowded into the commissioners' chambers at the courthouse to vie for whatever seats remained.South Kitsap residents Thurman Whiteley and Larry Smith, both members of the Saints Car Club of Kitsap County, were also among those attending Monday morning.I've lived in Kitsap County since 1966, and this is the very first time I've been in this room, said Whiteley to Smith, who sat next to him in one of the front rows. Smith shook his head.Along with the other classic car enthusiasts who either sat inside the commissioners chambers or stood outside the room, Whiteley showed up at Monday's meeting to protest a proposed nuisance ordinance currently being considered by the county commissioners.In general, the proposed ordinance calls for outlawing the accumulation of garbage on private property that could cause health and property value concerns for neighboring residents - as well as the collection of junk cars on private property.Kitsap County officials, including County Commissioner Tim Botkin, said the proposed ordinance is in direct response to a large number of citizen complaints lodged over the years because of neighbors who let garbage, litter and debris - or even junk cars - pile up in their yards, and the county's inability to quickly enforce a clean-up.Botkin cited a complaint about a resident parking as many as 14 cars on a quarter-acre lot, in plain view. The county, he said, is interested in protecting the property rights of the neighbors directly affected by this behavior while crafting a fair ordinance for everyone.I understand the point of this proposed ordinance, said Whiteley. I agree with the point, too, but I think more thought needs to be put into the 'junk car' portion of it because the definition of 'junk' is too narrow.Because the number of concerns like these raised at the commissioners' meeting, the board decided to continue the public hearing over the next few weeks, rather than adopt the ordinance as it's written. During that time, Kitsap County staff will work with car club representatives to craft an ordinance that doesn't cause problems for their hobby.Under the proposed ordinance, a vehicle would be considered junk if it met at least three of the following four criteria: * if the car is 3 years old or older;* is extensively damaged with such damage including, but not limited to, a broken window or windshield, missing wheels, tires, motor, transmission, body damage or missing bumpers;* is apparently inoperable; or,* has an approximate fair market value equal only to the approximate value of the scrap it contains.Moreover, according to the proposed ordinance, a vehicle won't be considered junk if it is enclosed within a building with at least three walls and a roof.As written, the proposed ordinance could cause many problems for folks such as Whiteley and his fellow Saints Car Club members. In fact, many feel the proposed law effectively makes their hobby a crime.For instance, Whiteley plans to paint his 1956 Ford Pickup a teal color soon. But it took four years of hard restoration work to reach that point, and the pickup didn't always look so good, nor did the spare parts that were lying around during that time.He said, under the proposed nuisance ordinance, he could get into some serious trouble. I'd think twice before purchasing an old car for spare parts the next time, even though I have a garage, he said.Many other car enthusiasts took issue with the requirement that their cars must be stored within an actual structure. Why, many wondered, should vehicles, stored away from plain site (behind a fence or camouflaged by shrubs and trees) be considered a nuisance?I have several cars parked out behind my garage where my neighbors can't see them and they're not bothering anyone, except maybe my wife, said Pat Gluba. Many other issues were raised during the public hearing on Monday. Ron Ross of Silverdale suggested the county consider enforcing such an ordinance in Urban Growth Areas as opposed to rural areas where folks tend to own larger lots.Still others urged the county to consider how this ordinance squares with the burn ban currently underway in the UGAs of Kitsap County. Compost piles, which are considered an alternative to burning yard waste, by definition are a nuisance as well under the proposed ordinance.Some supporters of the proposed ordinance attended as well, saying it was time the county helped see the clean up of junky yards. Supporters, however, also said they didn't want to see harmed classic-car enthusiasts. "

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