Residents balk at nuisance ordinance proposal

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The Curry County Commission had an unusually large audience during its meeting Tuesday at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library. Many of the residents attended to express their concerns about a nuisance ordinance.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Curry County commissioners postponed a decision Tuesday on a nuisance ordinance after an overwhelming outcry from about 150 residents who jammed the usually sparsely attended sessions.

Commissioners voted to return the proposed health and public safety ordinance to committee for further study.

The crowd filled all available seats, leaving stragglers to line the walls in the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

Audience members jeered and called out challenges to commissioners when they disagreed with points made about the ordinance.

Resident James Priest had strong words for commissioners about the ordinance, which would require residents to fix any health or safety issues on their property, such as standing water, rubbish or conditions that contribute to vermin and disease carrying insects.

Under the proposed ordinance, violators could be cited and face fines.

Priest said he sent out about 1,800 letters to county residents encouraging them to take a stand against the ordinance and attend the meeting.

Acknowledging his mailings mistakenly included a year-old draft of the ordinance that had since been modified, Priest said, “There’s changes of words, and that’s about all of the difference.”

“Let’s back off this you trying to run my life,” Priest said. “We all know what this is about, it’s about the city of Clovis doesn’t like the way the (entryways) look, well I don’t like the way Clovis looks.

“You live here in the city and you think you can come run my life?” Priest said. “I don’t run yours, you don’t run mine.”

The ordinance — sometimes called a nuisance ordinance — has been a topic of discussion for nearly two years. It was sent back to committee almost a year ago when it met with resistance from the dairy community, concerned it would seek to impose restrictions already in place by state and federal regulations.

Priest’s comments were met with loud applause and cheering from audience members.

Other residents said they feared under the proposal they would be penalized for the acts of others, like when trash blows on their property, which they said is a common occurrence.

“Are you all going to fine me because I’m old and can’t go out there and clean up?” asked Anna Wyatt.

“I just wonder, are you going to fine me because other people throw trash on my property?” Wyatt added. “If you don’t want it to look like that, why don’t you go clean it up?”

She wasn’t alone in her frustration.

“You know, you guys work for us. We try,” James Woods said.

“You know, you town people don’t think so, but we try,” Woods said. “You have no idea how much trash we pick up… Let’s take care of some of the things that’s going on instead. They can’t take care of the jail house, they just turn them out when they’re not supposed to.”

Others pointed out agricultural exemptions in the proposal were unfair to residents who make honest efforts to keep up their properties. They said it would allow dairies and other entities live by a different set of rules.

“I don’t understand why the dairies are exempt, except those dairies have one hundred times more money than us,” said Cameron Barnett, the crowd erupting with applause.

“The only thing is, it’s just easier to push around a hundred people that don’t have the money to fight you. Why exempt the problem makers?”

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval was first to offer a motion sending the proposal back to committee for further study. His suggestion met with more outcry, many in the audience yelling the proposal should be killed, not reconsidered.

“I think that our hearts are in the right place because we care,” Sandoval said.

“I understand that people are upset,” he said, “but what this commission is trying to do does not affect 99 percent of the people. Most everybody takes care of their property and takes pride in it.”

Sandoval’s motion was passed unanimously.