The Buckhannon City Council aims to clean up the town, and a proposed ordinance which would ban accumulating junk and debris is what they hope will send a message of pick it up or pay up.
The Junk Storage Ordinance will have its first reading at the June 6 meeting. It proposes to ban the "storage, collection, parking, leaving, depositing, maintaining and putting aside for further use" on a balcony, patio, yard, porch or roof any material deemed to be junk, rubbish, debris or clutter.
"Notwithstanding the city's efforts, certain residential property owners have continued to engage in activities and conduct that the Council determines to be detrimental and obstructive to the general health, safety, welfare and positive appearance and aesthetic appeal of their neighborhoods," the ordinance reads.
The ordinance is based on one recently implemented in Huntington.
"This Junk Storage Ordinance is just the latest evolving tool in dealing with problematic properties, and Buckhannon certainly isn't unique in strategizing over just getting citizens to do the right thing," City Attorney David McCauley said. "Housing enforcement types of problems are nagging, recurring issues for most cities in our state."
The city's Zoning and Housing Enforcement Officer would handle complaints and would be authorized to give property owners written notice to clean up their land or face financial penalties. The police department would be responsible for issuing citations for violations.
"I hope that our city will look toward the establishment of a fund to help those with very limited resources to improve conditions upon their properties for their and their neighbors' benefit," McCauley said. "I also think by having this ordinance in place, it empowers the Zoning/Housing enforcement officer to prompt offenders to clean up their messes as the threat of citation certainly can be invoked."
Allegations would be handled through Buckhannon's Municipal Court, and those found guilty would be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for a second offense within a two-year period, $200 for a third offense within a two-year period, $400 for a fourth offense within a two-year period and $500 for a fifth and for subsequent offenses within a two-year period.
McCauley noted there have been some "nasty interactions" with out-of-state property owners "who, frankly, couldn't care less about the goings-on in Buckhannon," but added many of those dealings have involved improperly maintained lawns rather than the accumulation of junk.