This letter is being written to support an August, 2019 letter that was submitted by John Poland on “The importance of local government” in the Letters to the Editor section of the Kootenai Valley Times.
Poland's letter was based on earlier attempts to get the Boundary County Officials, Planning & Zoning and the Commissioners, to enforce existing Boundary County Regulations for what exists on an adjacent (subject) homeowner’s property as an alleged illegal junkyard that is presently accumulating more materials, shipping containers and equipment before and since the August, 2019 letter.
Simply put, Boundary County officials determined that when the property was looked at by the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office around February, 2019, based on the current definition of what a junkyard is from Boundary County Regulation Section 2.31, that the accumulation of materials and equipment did not constitute a junkyard.
In addition, the subject property owner stated that the materials and equipment were considered personal property and not junk.
Based on the above determination from the Sheriff's Department and Boundary County officials, the junkyard situation was considered closed and no additional effort was going to be put forth on this matter.
There are two Boundary County zoning regulations that need to be looked at and how they affect land and homeowners.
The first is Regulation 15.2.11, which states “Outdoor storage of materials and property, not to include refuse, out of direct public view and less than half an acre in size”.
Regulation 15.2.11 is located with Section 15.2, Unrestricted Uses.
The second is Regulation 15.10.2 which provides a structural setback limit of 25 feet from a property line and is located under Section 15.10, Agriculture/Forestry.
Including the tree farm, most of the properties fall under Section 15.2, Unrestricted Uses and are zoned Agriculture/Forestry with minimum lots sizes of 10 acres except as noted.
Boundary County has regulations that dictate land zoning classes, usage requirements based on personal or business needs, structure setback distances to a property line and prohibited uses of land usage based on zoning use class.
When read, the regulations are easy to read and follow, encouraging the property owner to use and enjoy his or her property as they see fit and also provide guidelines for limits so that adjacent neighbors can enjoy their properties also.
This is also as stated in the beginning of Boundary Regulation Section 15.2, Unrestricted Uses, and quotes from Article 1 of the Idaho State Constitution that defines “All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.”
In other words, Boundary County’s regulations are a form of freedoms that allow Boundary County residents to follow and be able to interact with their neighbors and government officials without conflict.
From a limited viewpoint, I did not need any more regulations, or so I thought.
Unfortunately, the basis of John Poland’s complaint and concerns has gotten worse as the amount of material and equipment that is being moved onto the subject homeowner’s property has been steadily increasing.
My wife and I own and live on a 10-acre parcel in the vicinity of where John Poland lives. Shortly after the completion and moving into our house in October, 2017, the tractor trailer loads started moving onto the subject home owners property.
This started around December 2017 and over that winter and spring of 2018, half a dozen tractor trailer and flatbed trailer loads with shipping containers where moved onto the property, with a several of the loads either getting stuck on the private road that we live on or when starting the turn into the subject owner’s driveway.
Since May 2018 to present, the tractor trailer loads have continued to come in at a steady rate of one to two tractor trailer loads per month, with an increase to two to four tractor trailer loads per month since July, 2019.
Most of these materials and equipment is being located on a 10-acre parcel that is situated and surrounded by four other adjacent property owners including John Poland’s property.
Since June, 2019, I started to get involved when, after having several conversations with two of the adjacent homeowners, one being John Poland, I needed to see what the configuration of the loads looked like when viewed from the adjacent homeowner’s perspective.
Specific to John Poland’s concern, the amount of material and equipment was overwhelming and complex, with many shipping and storage containers being placed within two feet of his property line that he shared with the subject land owner.
In addition, the double stacking of 40-foot shipping containers had started to occur and can be viewed from a distance beyond the adjacent homeowner’s properties.
It was also clear that the amount of materials and equipment, shipping containers, tractor trailers and various types of vehicles, had a footprint greater than half an acre and violates Regulation 15.2.11 requirements.
The following are some updated pictures to the problem at hand and part of the basis for the need to revise the current Boundary County regulations applicable to the junkyard definition and personal property requirements.
Please note that the following pictures were taken from adjacent property owners, with their permission and in their presence.
Based on these observations, I wrote two complaint letters, one sent on July 30, 2019, to the Boundary County Zoning Administrator and the other sent on August 9, 2019, to Boundary County Commissioners and their consulting attorney.
In addition, I have been going to the monthly Boundary County P&Z meeting to better understand the disconnect between the existing regulations and the inability to enforce the regulations, when required.
Between July and September of 2019, monthly P&Z meetings provided discussions and workshops on what the definition of a junkyard is, with the criteria of what makes up a junkyard.
In addition, other concerns were raised about materials and equipment being personal property and being in excess of existing Boundary County Regulation 15.2.11.
These reviews and discussions of proposed changes to existing regulations and recommending new regulations continued through October 2019 with a final review to be performed by Boundary County P&Z at the November 21, 2019, meeting.
At that meeting, P&Z agreed to forward the proposed changes to the Boundary County Commissioners for review, discussion and possible vote.
As of the January 13, 2020, counommissioners meeting, the proposals have been put off for additional review for an upcoming February 18 commissioners meeting.
When this type of material and equipment buildup occurs, exceeding the above discussed Boundary County Regulations 15.2.11 and 15.10.2, it has an impact on adjacent home and land owners and their freedoms.
They lose the freedom to enjoy their property for what it was initially meant for. They lose the freedom to sell their property without concern of loss of real estate value. They lose the freedom of not being concerned about having plentiful and clean water.
Finally, they lose the freedom of not being concerned for personal safety, fire and theft when the buildup of material and property is visible from near and afar.
When I bought the property in September, 2014, I had the freedom of choice on where to buy. My criteria for selection was simple; property on level ground, good cell phone reception, easy access to a water supply and no visible materials and excess equipment not meant for agriculture/forestry purposes.
This excess buildup of materials and equipment beyond the current Boundary County regulations occurred after December 2017 and not before October, 2014.
If this situation had occurred before October 2014, I would not have bought the property.
The basis of these complaints and the need for change to the Boundary County Regulations is based on the around the MacArthur Road area. No other consideration was made to other parts of Boundary County.
However, the proposed changes will be applicable to all of Boundary County. Due to the subject owner’s unchecked accumulation of excess materials and equipment beyond the current Boundary County regulations and Boundary County Officials not being able to properly enforce them, new and stronger regulations are required.