County code enforcement cracks down on Clifton junk

Junk piled up at a home on Front Street in Clifton is being targeted by Code Enforcement.

Every day was the same for the shaggy gray horse in the front yard of Simon Gonzalez’s Clifton home.

Its pen, in the 3200 block of Front Street, barely gave the animal room to turn around.

Late last year things started to change.

Mesa County Code Enforcement and Animal Services, reacting to complaints from neighbors, descended upon the property and found an excessive number of animals and code violations.

Sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, horses, llamas, cows and some ducks called the place home, said Donna Ross, director of code enforcement.

There were also 42 vehicles, refrigerators, a soda machine, stacks of wood and pipe, rubbish and scrap metal littering the property, she said. The half-burnt, unoccupied home at the front of the property remains standing.

Code enforcement got Gonzalez to agree to a cleanup plan, and little by little he has made progress. The horses have been sent to ranches, one dog was released to Animal Services, a cow and a llama have been eliminated, some of the cars have been removed, and some of the piles of wood have been neatly stacked.

Last week the Mesa County Commission increased the pressure on Gonzalez and authorized taking him to court if he failed to fully comply with the cleanup plan.

He is not the only one feeling the weight of Mesa County. Increasingly, Clifton residents with code violations on their property are being brought to the attention of Code Enforcement.

Code Enforcement could not say how many cases it opened in the Clifton and Fruitvale areas in 2008. But in November 2007 Ross estimated a Clifton division of her department could expect to see 100 complaints a year, and the department would need 2.3 full-time employees and $25,000 a year to fund court-ordered cleanups.

Animal Services also has been busy in the Clifton and Fruitvale areas, responding to 1,052 calls in the 81520 ZIP code in 2008.

“I think it is about time they started to focus on Clifton because we have been the heel of the boot for too long,” said 90-year-old Margaret Hardin, a resident in the 3200 block of Front Street, Clifton. “Many places do need (to be) cleaned up.”

But the community is not being targeted by the county, and Code Enforcement is not proactively seeking out violations, County Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

“Our attentions are on the egregious violations, and a lot of them are in Clifton,” she said.

A majority of the complaints are coming from community meetings sponsored by the county.

Since last year, residents have been debating the pros and cons of either annexing into Grand Junction or forming a city of Clifton. The committee has come down in favor of annexing. It is from these meetings that many of the code violations in Clifton are coming to the attention of Mesa County.

“Concerns have been expressed by numerous people,” Ross said.

And appreciation has been expressed by many as well.

“I really appreciate the effort the county is making to clean up this neighborhood,” said Bonnie Richards, who lives in the 200 block of Fourth Street, a few doors down from an illegal salvage operation at 449 Orson Ave. The cars, pickups, scrap metal, vans and torn-apart mobile homes spilled over onto side roads and became an eyesore.

Last week the county authorized taking Russell Williams, the owner of the illegal salvage yard, to court.

“I’m just a small, one-man operation,” he said, “just trying to make a living.”

Mark Claypool, who lives in the 200 block of Fifth Street, recently was forced by the county to clean his front yard.

“I can understand what they are saying, but a lot of it I don’t,” he said, referring to Code Enforcement.

If a man is just trying to “make a living,” Claypool said, what business is it of the county’s if his yard is trashed?

Appreciated by some, misunderstood by others, one thing can be said for sure of code enforcement in Clifton: “People know we mean business,” Rowland said.


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