Proposed ordinance deemed too vague by residents

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The search for middle ground on a proposed county nuisance ordinance continues.

While most agreed something needs to be done to clean up unsightly properties, the majority of Curry County residents who spoke at Tuesday’s county commission meeting said there are problems with the latest proposed nuisance ordinance.

More than a dozen residents voiced concerns about loosely defined or vague language in the ordinance and high violation fines and penalties.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr recommended at the start of the meeting the proposed nuisance ordinance be withdrawn from being put before the commission for a vote. He said the recommendation was supported by county administrators and commissioners.

No timeline was set at Tuesday’s meeting for action on the ordinance.

Health and safety violations in the proposed ordinance included stagnant pools of water, refuse, structures that could contain vermin and other disease-carrying insects.

Doerr explained to attendees issues with the language of the ordinance are inherent to any nuisance policy.

“Nuisance by its very nature is very hard to define. You can’t say ‘all abandoned buildings’ or ‘the blue flag’ or ‘the straw house,’ we have to define what it is we don’t like about them… We’ve probably killed a couple hundred trees working on this ordinance. It’s a very difficult thing to put in black and white,” he said.

“I just hope you understand the very nature of a nuisance ordinance is not something myself or the commissioners can put in black and white.”

Commissioner Pete Hulder told the crowded room that no ordinance would satisfy everybody.

He said ordinances simply serve as a reminder or guide for people who are already doing the right thing.

“(In) my opinion laws are written to keep honest people honest,” he said.

“We do have to do something, but after seven months of advertising (and work), we have to pass an ordinance and we have to trust that the honest people will abide by the ordinance.”

Doerr also reassured farm and dairy owners they are automatically protected and exempted from county policy infringement through the state’s Right to Farm Act.

In the months it has been in the works, the ordinance has undergone several transformations, Doerr said, and an agriculture and dairy exemption paragraph was removed at some point.

However, Doerr suggested reinserting the exemption clause “because it makes it easier to understand.”

Commissioners and audience members also questioned why the ordinance couldn’t be drafted to cover only the travel corridors into and out of Clovis.

Initial discussion for the ordinance centered around the areas entering Clovis, Doerr said, but the ordinance was expanded to encompass the entire county, he said. Otherwise, it becomes zoning, something county residents have historically rejected.

“Go beyond (health and safety countywide) and it’s a zoning ordinance. The law has to be applied equally to all citizens,” he said.

Some of the department reports given at the meeting:

• County Clerk Mario Trujillo reported the county recently sold its old voting machines for $12,000.

• Curry County Adult Detention Center Leslie Johnson thanked the commission for their support in the last two years, explaining Tuesday would be her last meeting before she retires.

The facility plans to continue the programs she instituted under the premise that, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and the incoming interim warden Audrey Barriga also has innovative ideas for future management, she said.

• Special Events Center project Manager Randy Kamradt said the center is approximately 90 percent complete.

Kamradt said he is waiting on tile and kitchen supplies, which he expects by the end of August. He said he anticipates construction on the center will be completed by the beginning of September.

• Fairgrounds Manager Susan Ferrell reported preparations for next week’s county fair are going smoothly. There is only one vacant booth in the commercial barn, which she said she expects will be filled.

Commissioners approved renewal of eight contracts for fair vendors.