- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2006

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Just a little more time, Stanley Boynavich says, and he will rid his yard of junk.

The old tires, automotive parts, Christmas decorations, beer bottles, the snowmobile with duct-tape-covered seats and other clutter around his place in a wooded subdivision will be gone, he says.

Mr. Boynavich, 40, has been saying that for six years. But now, time is up.

Allegany County, like a growing number of counties across the country, is cracking down on property owners who have resisted cleaning up despite warnings, fines and even jail sentences.

In some states, including Maryland, counties have lagged behind cities in forcing such cleanups. But people who choose to live in outlying, unincorporated areas increasingly are demanding that their neighbors tidy up.

“The classic line is, ‘What is one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.’ We don’t see the value in that anymore,” said David Eberly, Allegany County’s director of community services. “The treasure has lost its glitz.”

Allegany County adopted an abatement law last year after pushing legislation through the General Assembly. Before that, the county had issued warnings and levied fines on yard-junk offenders, but some still wouldn’t clean up their messes.

“Before, this program had no teeth,” said Jerry W. Michael, a retired state trooper who started work in July as one of two Allegany County junk-enforcement officers.

He and Officer Pattie L. Talley are working their way through 80 cases, many stemming from resident complaints.

Allegany County started its program by removing eight inoperable vehicles and a camper trailer from the yard of a burned-out house owned by Lester L. Isner in Bowman’s Addition — a subdivision north of Cumberland, where Mr. Boynavich lives.

The county had cited Mr. Isner several times since 1988 and even jailed him for three days in 2003 for failing to do what the county finally accomplished in July, at a cost of $3,000.

Mr. Isner, 62, of Cumberland, said he was close to complying when the truck arrived.

“I asked them to give me until the month of August to get it cleaned up, and they wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Mr. Isner, who works spraying weed killer along state highways, said he just hadn’t found the time to remove the cars, which he bought for his personal use, then discarded when they stopped running.

His junk pile was small compared with some of the “Dirty Dozen” cases pursued by Pierce County, Wash., a national leader in personal-property abatement. The county removed 661 vehicles from one place and 80 from the property of another man, who then began accumulating more, said Pierce County official Yvonne Reed.

Pierce County’s four-year-old program won awards in 2003 from the National Association of Counties and the Solid Waste Association of North America. It includes a hot line, a community outreach component and, for offenders who say they can’t afford to haul their junk, a $100 credit for solid-waste disposal at an approved landfill.

Mr. Boynavich says some neighbors are just meddlers who don’t appreciate the rural traditions in which he was raised in neighboring West Virginia. “Where I grew up, everybody had their own private little junk pile, and most of them had enough property where it wasn’t visible from the road,” he said. Still, he understands that some people consider his yard an eyesore. “They’re absolutely right, and I plan on complying with them,” he said.

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