Cleaning desert eyesores helps entire community

Neighbors’ anger is understandable over the unauthorized junkyard that developed on property near theirs north of Interstate 70 off 33 Road. The unsightly mess at 761 33 Road has undoubtedly hurt their property values, as well as their views.

But unsightly developments in the desert just off the interestate affect the whole community and how it presents itself to the rest of the world.

That’s why we were pleased to see the Mesa County commissioners act last week to require Steve Cain to clean up 761 33 Road and property he controls immediately to the east.

Cain has received several notices from county officals over the past year, and agreed to plans to eliminate junk and remove unregistered vehicles from his land. But he has not complied fully. In fact, he has reportedly even added unpermitted buildings.

If he doesn’t make appropriate changes by June 30, the county intends to file a criminal court complaint aginst Cain.

While Cain’s property is nearly a mile off I-70, parts of it are visible from the highway. But other properties even closer to I-70 are also prompting concerns about what is allowed in that area.

There seems to be an Old West, anything-goes attitude among some of those who have moved onto properties in the desert north of the interstate and east of Grand Junction Regional Airport.

The effective consequences of some of the properties in that area is a visual assault on the senses of people in the thousands of vehicles that pass through the Grand Valley every day. The bad first impressions created in such cases cannot be easily overcome.

Even remarkable photos in brochures and magazines of things like Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument and the Riverfront Trail don’t reach as many eyes and form as many opinions of this community as what is seen from car windows by people passing through.

We aren’t arguing that development should be prohibited on private property in the desert near 33 Road or elsewhere just off I-70. That would be legally suspect, to say the least, and property owners in the area could make a good case for an illegal takings.

But the county commissioners can establish zoning rules that recognize the importances of the desert area not far from the east entrance to the Grand Valley. They can set rules on the types of dwellings allowed, what sort of out buildings are allowed, the number of vehicles and other items that can be stored on such property.

The commissioners took an important step last week with the move to require the cleanup of one property. But more needs to be done to protect an area that’s critical to the way the Grand Valley presents itself.

And candidates seeking to win a spot at the commissioners’ table should be prepared to tell voters what they would do with respect to development in the area.


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