By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middle-bury’s new junk ordinance officially took effect Tuesday night, in the wake of a referendum that saw residents vote 272 to 95 against repealing the new law.
The repeal question failed to carry on two fronts. Not only did junk law opponents fail to win a majority of the tallies, the referendum failed to attract the minimum 15 percent (around 670) of registered Middlebury voters required by the town charter for an ordinance change. In all, only 367 votes were cast in the election.
Tuesday’s vote was forced by a citizens’ petition effort organized by resident Peggy Kimball. Kimball, who filed the petition back on June 16, said she wanted to give all registered voters in town a chance to weigh in on the issue, as opposed to just municipal leaders. Selectmen had voted 5-2 in May to approve the ordinance.
Selectboard Chairman John Tenny said he was pleased with the outcome of the vote. The results, he said, illustrate Middlebury residents’ willingness to collectively back community improvement measures.
He said he’s also pleased with the democratic process that led to Tuesday’s vote.
“I’m pleased the public showed the support it did for the careful process the board used… to craft an ordinance that helped people out, but was not more restrictive than was necessary.”
The new law requires residents in Middlebury village and the “main village corridor” of East Middlebury to remove, or screen, junk on their property — or face fines and possible court action.
People who fail to clean up their junk within 30 days are subject to fines of up to $1,000 per offense. The town also has the right to seek “injunctive relief and civil penalties” against offenders through Addison County Superior Court.
While the new law at this point applies to only the most densely populated parts of towns, selectmen may choose to expand the coverage area incrementally, should the need arise.