Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

What constitutes a nuisance yard


It seems when the temperatures rise, so do the number of calls to the Thermopolis Police Department in regard to nuisance yards. Police Chief Steve Shay said when such calls come in the first response is to go to the yard in question, to determine if it does qualify as a nuisance under the town code.

Several things under the code would constitute a nuisance, though weeds are one of the more common reasons. Under Section 11-802, “The term ‘weed’ shall be deemed to include any plant growth over eight inches in height which is not compatible in an area of commercial or residential development or which endangers property or which would burn readily if fired. The common tests of whether a plant is noxious or not and of whether the plant is desired in its location by the owner or occupant of the property shall not be considered.”

Other areas of the code refer to the storing of dilapidated vehicles or unsightly buildings on lots, as well as open pits, all of which could be declared nuisances.

Shay said the lines can get a bit blurred when it comes to what constitutes a nuisance, referring to the adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” He noted an example from several years ago, when someone made a complaint about a person having an old refrigerator on his property. On further investigation, it was found the owner had converted the fridge into a smoker.

It’s important to note many of the codes regarding nuisances were written in the 1990’s, and could benefit from some updated language. While people might not have weeds over eight inches tall, they might have certain grasses that height, which would become a fire hazard if they get too dry.

Another issue when it comes to nuisance properties is owner absenteeism. Shay said some people simply pack up their things and leave a property, or it may be inherited by someone who doesn’t live here so they are unable to care for it. Unfortunately in such cases, it also means the people are not here so they can be addressed.

Still another issue is that there is currently no nuisance officer specifically assigned to handle the calls, so it falls to other officers to get to them when they can.

After investigating a call about a nuisance property, Shay explained, attempts are made to contact the owner. If they are unable to, a red tag is left on the door of the property. Shay said person-to-person contact is preferable.

Owners are given time to address the issue. Shay said this might typically be a week, though it also depends on how egregious the nuisance is.

Those served with nuisance citations can work with the court to find a resolution, though they could also be fined up to $750.


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