Mesa County may take own employees to court over junk

Two of the four homeowners whom Mesa County commissioners threatened Tuesday with legal action if they don’t clean up their properties soon are county employees.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to give Mark and Anna Lasley, 180 Rainbow Drive, until April 1 to clear junk from their properties or face misdemeanor criminal charges. Mark Lasley is a deputy with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, while his wife, Anna, is a legal secretary in the District Attorney’s Office,

In addition, the board gave Juan and Cecelia Ramirez, 2118 Yellowstone Road, until June 1 to clear their property.

The county’s land-development code forbids property owners from operating junkyards or keeping junk in residential areas.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey told The Daily Sentinel the Sheriff’s Department initiated an internal investigation into whether Mark Lasley violated any departmental policies. Among those policies is one that requires employees to behave in a manner that doesn’t discredit the agency, he said.

The sheriff said he wasn’t aware Lasley was being accused of any county code violations until Thursday, when county administration notified him that commissioners would be holding a public hearing about it Tuesday.

Tony Piotrowski, county code-enforcement officer, told commissioners the county received six complaints about the Lasley property during the past two years. Photographs of the outside of the home showed discarded furniture, appliances, mattresses and two unregistered vehicles.

He said the county continued to field complaints late last year, and a code-enforcement officer who visited the home in December noticed the Lasleys had converted their garage into living space without obtaining a building permit from the county.

The county issued the Lasleys a notice of violation Jan. 27. Piotrowski said he noticed during a site visit Monday that cleanup had begun, and Mark Lasley told him over the phone Tuesday he was confident he’d finish cleaning in a week or two. Meanwhile, county planners Tuesday approved a site plan allowing the Lasleys to keep the converted living space.

Neighbor Joseph Hayes said problems with junk on the Lasley property actually date back to 2007. He said the Lasleys cleaned up their yard then, but that trash returned within six months.

“I’m concerned that we might see a recurrence of this cycle,” Hayes told commissioners.

He said several homeowners on Rainbow Drive are trying to sell their properties but have been told by real-estate agents that part of the reason they’ve been unsuccessful is because of the appearance of the Lasley property and one other home on the block.

The Lasleys didn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing.

As for the Ramirez property, which contains an assortment of junk in the front yard and driveway, the county has fielded eight complaints about it since 2008.

Piotrowski said code-enforcement officers issued a request for voluntary compliance and visited the home several times since 2008, but they have had trouble reaching the Ramirezes. Over time, he said, the junk has increased in size and created safety and sight-distance concerns because the property sits at the intersection of two residential streets.

Piotrowski said Cecelia Ramirez responded to a notice of violation issued in January with a compliance plan indicating she and her husband would have the property cleared by June 1.

“It stands out. I’ve seen it myself,” Commissioner Craig Meis said of the Ramirez property. “It’s certainly not something I would be appreciative of in that high-density housing.”

The Ramirezes didn’t attend the hearing.


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