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Commissioners postpone proposed nuisance law
"Long before the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners meeting was scheduled to commence Jan. 8, myriad classic car enthusiasts from all over the county - replete in their car club jackets, hats and pins - crowded into 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 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.Whiteley and other classic car enthusiasts showed up to protest a proposed nuisance ordinance currently being considered by the commissioners.The proposed ordinance tightens existing laws on 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 Commissioner Tim Botkin, said the proposed ordinance is in direct response to a large number of complaints lodged 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 Whiteley was far from alone in his complaint, the commissioners delayed the public hearing for at least the next few weeks, rather than adopt the ordinance as 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 criteria: l If the car is three years old or older.l If the car 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.l If the vehicle is apparently inoperable. l If the vehicle has an approximate fair market value equal only to its scrap value.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.Whiteley and many of his fellow Saints Car Club members said the proposed law effectively would have made their hobby a crime.For instance, Whiteley plans to paint his 1956 Ford pickup teal. 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.Under the proposed nuisance ordinance, he said 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 be stored within a structure. Why, many wondered, should vehicles stored out of 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, but not in 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 Kitsap's UGAs. 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 also attended, saying it was time the county forced clean-up of junky yards. Supporters, however, said they didn't want to see harmed classic-car enthusiasts. "