A view of 452 Mills Road on Friday in Whitefield. The property is one of eight in town being served with a notice of noncompliance with the town’s junkyard ordinance. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

WHITEFIELD — Town officials have sent several notices to property owners in an effort to crack down on cluttered properties.

Theodore Rideout, owner of a property at 452 Mills Road who will receive a notice of noncompliance with town ordinance, said Friday he plans to clean up his property in a timely fashion.

Whitefield Code Enforcement Officer Arthur Strout said eight properties have been sent notices in accordance with the town’s junkyard ordinance, which prohibits property owners from having too much junk on their yards that could negatively affect the value of abutting properties.

In 2018, town voters approved a new junkyard ordinance that, according to Selectman Bill McKeen, closed a loophole in the state ordinance that allowed people to run permanent “yard sales,” instead of operating state-licensed junkyards, allowing them to have messy properties.

The ordinance limits lawn sales to “no more than one per month” and “no longer than 3 days,” and requires all materials be removed from the lawn in between sales. Barn, garage and any other fully enclosed sales are not considered lawn sales, according to the ordinance.

The penalty for violating the ordinance is a fine of $2,500 a day, with a maximum fine of $25,000.

McKeen said Friday that enforcement of the ordinance has lagged until now, and the Selectboard has decided to take action against “junky yards.”

Strout said he sent eight notices out on Thursday to owners of property with too much junk or more than two unregistered vehicles that have not been inspected.

McKeen said the town sends notices to properties based on complaints from neighbors. He said the town does not have specific language on how much junk constitutes receiving a notice.

Aside from being an eyesore, McKeen said messy properties can affect resale values on neighboring properties, and attract rats and other pests. Further, he said, batteries in abandoned vehicles can leak into the ground, causing an environmental hazard.

In 2018, the town took Rideout to court to force compliance with a state law barring people from operating automobile graveyards, automobile recycling businesses or junkyards without a permit. According to a court order, Rideout was ordered to remove all rubbish and debris, including scrap metal and two unregistered campers, from the property by June 15, 2018, and pay the town’s legal fees. McKeen said Friday that the Rideout property was one of the eight properties that would receive notices, but since it was sent in the mail it may not arrive for a couple of days.

On Friday, Rideout told the Kennebec Journal that he satisfied the conditions of the 2018 court order, but more items from his business, which he described as “hauling junk,” had cluttered his property since. He recognized he was in violation of the ordinance, but said he would clean up his property in a timely manner. Further, Rideout said his cleanup effort has been hampered by a recent open-heart surgery.

“A month is all I need and this place would be cleaned right up,” he said.

Rideout said his property is hardly the only property in town with junk, but town officials have been “picking on” him “forever.” He said he plans on cleaning up at the wish of the town and getting out of the junk hauling business.

“I just want them to leave me alone, I don’t want to bother nobody,” Rideout said. “I think what you do on your land should be your own business, but it ain’t. I paid my taxes and they used my money to fight me, if you ask me.”

Strout said between the court order and Thursday’s notices, he was not aware of any complaints against Rideout’s property.

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