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Panton adopts junk ordinance

PANTON — On Oct. 24 a new Panton law is scheduled to take effect that will ban trash and junk vehicles from being left in sight from town roads or neighboring properties, regulate salvage yards in the town, and give property owners the right to have vehicles abandoned on their land towed at the owners’ expense.
The Panton selectboard adopted the law on Aug. 25 after a lengthy process that included a rewrite by a new Vermont League of Cities and Towns legal team, according to selectboard Chairman John Viskup.
The board was prompted to consider the new law, at least in part, by what Viskup called “one very prominent residence in town” that “many people complained about being pretty junky” because of many old cars and other junk on the property.
“We didn’t have any teeth” to insist the property be cleaned up, Viskup said.
The board fielded few complaints about the proposed law while considering it, he said.
“I don’t think anybody was too concerned about it,” Viskup said. “A few people came in and said they wanted to be able to have some cars in their yards for parts.”
Provisions in the new law allow for such vehicles if fencing or vegetation screens them from neighbors or motorists.
In drafting the law, the selectboard relied on zoning administrator Ed Hanson, who holds the same job in several other towns.
“We had a lot of input from Ed Hanson,” Viskup said. “He had dealt with it in other towns.”
The law makes it clear that law enforcement officials may also order abandoned vehicles towed. The law does not specify who will pay for the towing, but Viskup said the town will ultimately stand behind the cost, as it does when the town is billed for Vergennes Fire Department work and passes the tab onto residents.
“Our intention would have been that the vehicle owner would be paying for it if he wanted to get his vehicle back,” he said. “Then the town is stuck with the bill, of course.”
The bill includes provisions “to regulate the outdoor storage of junk and junk vehicles, to regulate salvage yards and to regulate abandoned motor vehicles,” and “to regulate disposal of junk and junk vehicles.”
The law prohibits placing junk or a junk vehicle where it is “visible from the traveled way of a highway or where it is visible to an abutting property owner’s land.”
Fines for failing to remove or screen junk or junk vehicles will be $5 a day.
Abandoned vehicles are defined as those that have valid registrations and have been left on others’ property without permission or along roadways for two days or longer, or an unregistered vehicle that has been left “on public or private property … for any period of time.”
All salvage yards and any junk or junk vehicles stored outdoors must be “effectively screened by a fence or vegetation at least six feet in height” that is approved by the town’s development review board.
Anyone who wants to run a salvage yard in Panton will be required to obtain permission from both the state and the Panton selectboard. Garages that repair vehicles are excluded.
The selectboard may appoint an enforcement officer, who could be “any constable, police officer or health officer.”

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