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Rush Valley Split on Cleanup of City's Rust Belt

Rush Valley Split on Cleanup of City's Rust Belt

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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TOOELE, Utah (AP) -- One man's trash is another man's treasure, but what about when it comes to rusting vehicles?

Rush Valley leaders are pondering getting rid of an ordinance that forces residents to keep their land debris-free. Proponents of the move claim the ordinance is too vague. Those who want to see it enforced, however, say it's vital to efforts to clean up junk that's blighting the town.

The town's "Conservation of Values" code states: "Trash, weeds or other material liable to contribute to a fire hazard, infestation by rodents or insects shall not be allowed to remain on any lot outside of approved containers in (the) Town of Rush Valley and no junk, debris, abandoned or dismantled vehicles, or similar refuse material shall be stored or allowed to remain outdoors."

The section goes on to make allowances for manufacturing operations and conditional use permits.

Rush Valley's town attorney, Ron Elton, clarified the reason the ordinance was up for debate was because it could prove difficult to enforce.

"It's too vague," he said flatly. "It may be unenforceable."

Nancy Long, a Rush Valley land owner, recently renovated a large brick building that stands majestically at the entrance to town on SR-199.

"I hauled 68 tires off that property," she said at a recent evening meeting to discuss the proposed ordinance change.

The 67-year-old chronicled the hardship she had ridding the property of unwanted, unusable vehicles such as campers.

"I had to pay someone $10 an hour to disassemble a camper, because the dump wouldn't accept something so big," Long said.

No stranger to large renovation projects, Long purchased Gardner Village in West Jordan in 1979. The 154-year-old flour mill was made into a furniture store and restaurant.

Long hopes her Rush Valley property will be a valuable investment. But property values seemed to be in the balance as the Planning and Zoning Commission debated the fate of the ordinance.

For an hour, the Planning and Zoning Commission listened to concerned residents and land owners regarding the deletion of this section.

A half-dozen speakers added to the lively debate.

Jim Waters, who lives on Highway 199, veered off-topic by asking why the state-operated road wasn't better maintained. He complained of 5-foot-tall weeds and trash tossed from commuters' cars.

Earl Christiansen, Long's husband, asked commission members to be accountable to their own laws and safeguard property values for land owners.

"When I read that this was up for debate," Christiansen began, "frankly I was baffled. Most towns are trying to enhance the look of the town. Rush Valley is going in the opposite direction."

He asked the commission to reconsider.

"Are you saying that you have low or no expectations on how we are seen by Tooele, or the rest of the state?" Christiansen asked.

Mark Morris, a Rush Valley resident asked: "Are you saying this isn't the right wording?" He explained that his wish was to keep the current code in place until another could be written and accepted to take its place.

Mace Davis requested the council consider keeping the current wording in place. He didn't want the section deleted without a suitable replacement. "It seems to me to be completely backwards."

"We all have some unsightly thing on our property," Darrell Johnson said, "but we've got some cedar trees that can hide it too."

Alice Waters admitted: "This is not Beverly Hills, this is not a gated community. Let's not forget why people move here. It's for the room, the peace, the quiet."

The fate of the town ordinance is scheduled to be continued for discussion. The commission will be making a recommendation to the town council soon, Elton said. The next town council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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