Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cluttered Barnesville property prompts rare resolution

Town grants county the power to address land use violations

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Barnesville officials recently did something they don’t often do: pass a resolution.

After months of trying to resolve an illegal dumping complaint against a property owner, the town’s three officials voted unanimously in the spring to give Montgomery County the power to handle land-use complaints within the tiny municipality.

The issue came up about six months ago when a town resident complained about a neighboring property on the 2100 block of Beallsville Road that was strewn with unsightly automotive parts, furniture, unused vehicles, carpet, computers and power equipment, according to records filed in Montgomery County District Court in Silver Spring.

In May, the property owner, Paul Scott Meissner of Bethesda, pleaded guilty to accumulating solid waste outside of approved storage containers, which is a civil infraction.

Meissner could not be reached for comment. But Barnesville Commission President Pete Menke said Monday Meissner had been cooperative in rectifying the situation.

‘‘It was a pretty extensive amount of illegal dumping,” Menke said.

The single-family house is set back from the street on a gravel road and not visible to those driving by.

Shortly after town officials received the complaint from a neighbor who could see the yard, they contacted the county’s Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and researched how to address unsightly yards in the future.

‘‘It’s been ongoing for quite a while,” Menke said. ‘‘...The wheels move slowly, and there were some ruts in the road.”

After receiving approval from the town attorney, Menke and Commissioners Bonnie Brown and Luke Fedders voted in favor of adopting Chapter 48 ‘‘Solid Wastes” of the county’s Charter and Code in May, Menke said. According to section Sec. 48-10 of the code: ‘‘It shall be unlawful for any person to dispose of, dump, deposit or leave any solid waste within the county, on public or private property ...” for more than 30 days.

If a property is found not to be in compliance, the county may notify the owner and remove the solid waste, according to county code. The owner would be responsible for paying for the removal.

Menke said that such land-use violations are uncommon in Barnesville.

The town does not often pass resolutions, Fedders said. ‘‘They pop up from time to time,” he said last week.

Menke, who was first elected to the town’s commission 32 years ago, said he could not recall the last time the town passed a resolution.

Though Barnesville, a small community with less than 200 people, is an incorporated municipality that controls town matters such as zoning. However, it must rely on the county to handle areas as fire safety and the environment, Menke said.

Meissner was given 30 days to clean up the property in the 2100 block of Beallsville Road. He also must maintain the grounds and fill excavation holes in the rear yard, according to the order for abatement filed in District Court.

The 30-day period was continued at a status hearing on July 10, the records state.

‘‘As long as substantial progress is made, they won’t be ordering a county clean-up,” Menke said.