County struggles with junkyards
Officials hope to strengthen ordinances
What constitutes junk is a matter of perception, according to David Van Parys, Leavenworth County counselor.
Van Parys is working to toughen county regulations in order to prevent junkyards and automobile graveyards from continuing to pop up in Leavenworth County. And he hopes that a resolution soon will be given to Leavenworth County commissioners.
For now, Van Parys and Tom Olson, the county's environmental engineering technician, are working on a new, stronger ordinance.
''A lot of people literally do not know what is proper and what is lawful,'' Van Parys said. '' It is a matter of perception. Some people are just more tolerable than others. One of our primary concerns is the environment and safety. Junkyards in the county are a big problem.''
As the ordinance stands, according to the Board of Health of Leavenworth County, ''junk'' is defined as ''old or scrap copper, brass, rope, rags, batteries, paper, trash, rubber debris, waste or junked, dismantled or wrecked vehicles, or parts thereof, iron, steel, and other old or scrap ferrous or nonferrous material.''
Automobile graveyards are ''any storing, keeping, buying, or selling 10 or more wrecked, scrapped, ruined, dismantled or inoperative motor vehicles, and which establishment is not in conformance with all regulations of Leavenworth County of the State of Kan-sas.''
The county's planning and zoning office receives about 10 anonymous phone calls a month regarding junk or nuisances in the county. Tom Olson, the county's environmental engineering technician, said most calls regard junk vehicles.
After a complaint has been made, the county investigates. If a violation is detected, the property owner is sent a letter, asking the violation to be handled in 14 days.
''We get a lot of calls, some people are good about cleaning up, but others claim that they don't think their stuff is junk,'' Olson said.
If there is no response or attempt to comply, legal action is the next step, Olson said.
If the property owner is convicted for not complying with the order, a fine of up to $100 a day can be applied. The fine will continue to build until the nuisance is removed.
The existing ordinance was adopted in April 1998.
''We are trying to make the regulations more restrictive,'' Olson said.
Van Parys said a public hearing would be conducted on new regulations.
As Leav-enworth County urbanizes, some problems occur.
''Sometimes these people are dismayed when they move to the county,'' Van Parys said.
He said some don't realize that a farm is a business and what the new residents consider junk may not actually be junk. It has to be a public nuisance not just a distraction for a neighbor. Olson said half the calls received are from people who don't like their neighbor.
''About 50 percent of people take care of the problem,'' Olson said. ''The other 50 ignore it and are turned over to the county counselor.''