Minturn resident faces fine for messy property
Vail CO, Colorado
MINTURN ” A resident’s property ” occupied by a large, white semi trailer for almost three years ” was declared a “nuisance” by the Minturn Town Council Wednesday night.
Councilors voted six to one to declare Mark Sifers’ property, 671 Main St., a violation of the town’s nuisance law, the first such declaration since the town passed the ordinance about four years ago.
Mayor Hawkeye Flaherty cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the declaration was inconsistent with the Town Council’s past approach to the nuisance law. Flaherty argued that councilors have worked with property owners to persuade them to clean up their junk in the past without strict enforcement.
“I know for a fact that Mark has made progress by removing vehicles from the property,” said Flaherty, adding that Sifers should be given more time.
Wednesday night’s decision was a departure from that relaxed treatment: Sifers will eventually be given a ticket ordering him to appear in municipal court, where he faces a fine.
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“I don’t believe (the Sifers) are making an active effort to clean up,” Town Councilwoman Shelley Bellm said.
The nuisance ordinance defines a nuisance as anything from garbage to abandoned cars and trucks to bricks and wheels stacked in residents’ yards.
Town councilors told Sifers to remove his trailer ” about which neighbors and residents had complained ” and old appliances such as a washing machine from his property. He also was told to build a fence to hide one of several vehicles.
Sifers ” who never said he would remove the trailer ” told councilors the town was discriminating against him. Lots of other people have nuisances on their properties, he said.
“You have to apply it fully to everybody,” Sifers said. “You can’t just take what you want out of the code and apply it to certain people.”
He said he was using the trailer to store construction materials, but that work on his home was delayed because he had to take care of his father, who has since died. Some construction has been completed, he said.
Sifers never had a building permit for his property, town staffers said, so his argument to keep a trailer on his property to store materials was dubious. Sifers disputed that he never had a building permit and said that he had received some, but not all, of the letters the town had sent asking him to clean up.
“You’re playing a game,” Town Councilman Jerry Bumgarner said. “You’re not being discriminated against.”
“Frankly, you ain’t doing your part” to clean up, Bumgarner added.
Sifers’ trailer has been sprawled in his front yard for almost three years and town staffers have tried to get him to move it for two years. They have sent letters and offered to have the semi towed away ” for free, Town Planner Chris Cerimele said.
“How you weren’t aware of what was going on, I don’t understand,” Bellm told Sifers.
Residents said in a survey in 2005 that they wanted fellow residents to tidy up. Town staffers have recently stepped up enforcement by sending letters to property owners with abandoned cars and other junk sitting outside their homes and town councilors have warned that those people could get tickets.
Sifers was the first to have his property declared a nuisance, but “I don’t think you’re the last,” Town Councilman Matt Scherr said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.