Archive for Friday, February 25, 2011

Proposed nuisance policy divides Saline County

February 25, 2011

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— Saline County officials have been working on a resolution to address complaints about nuisance properties in unincorporated communities.

The county's planning and zoning department sent letters this month to property owners in seven unincorporated towns in the county. The letters explained that the county is working on a regulation to resolve such nuisances as unmaintained lots rife with weeds, abandoned or inoperable vehicles and dilapidated buildings.

Residents of the communities — Bavaria, Salemsborg, Falun, Glendale, Hedville, Kipp and Mentor — have also been invited to March study sessions with the county planning and zoning commission to discuss the proposal and give their comments.

A draft of a resolution will then be prepared and brought to the planning commission for consideration at its April meeting, said Vicki Koepsel, the county's director of planning and zoning.

But since Saline County officials began working on the resolution, people who own sites that have been the subject of complaints have started to clean them up, said Harlen L. Prater of Bridgeport.

"They're thinking they better clean up before they get a citation. I don't see that happening soon, because I don't know if it will take a year or more to pass. But it lets people know we're tired of it and we want some changes," he told The Hutchinson News.

Opponents of the regulations say the "nuisances" are just part of living in the country. Kent Berry, of Bridgeport, said those who live in town don't understand country life.

"One couple was concerned about the noise the (grain) elevator makes. That's what it does," he said. "I want nothing to do with (the regulations). I hope it does not pass."

If the planning commissioners make a recommendation to move ahead with the resolution, it could go to the board of county commissioners for their consideration in May. If approved, the resolution could take effect sometime in May or June, Koepsel said.

She said her department has considered ways to deal with such nuisances for several years. But county commissioners decided last fall to focus on the issue after a citizen in Bavaria complained about health and pest problems she and her husband say were caused by their neighbor's property.

"We didn't want to complain. After all, you're supposed to love your neighbor," said Florene Steinle, of Bavaria, who made the complaint. "But for 10 years, it's been rough. The weeds got 7 to 8 feet tall."

The proposed regulations would apply not only to unincorporated communities but to subdivisions or other areas characterized by smaller lot sizes and more residences, and any land within 250 feet of any of those, she said.

The proposal would exempt such land as crop fields, conservation reserve program ground and pastures. Nuisances would be generally defined as conditions that give rise to foul odors, illegal activity, noise or other problems or dangers that affect neighbors.

"These regulations help us improve some properties in pretty much every town I can think of," Koepsel said.

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