Column | Bruce Butler: Cleaning up the neighborhood |

Column | Bruce Butler: Cleaning up the neighborhood

As a follow-up to my last column, “Trash Talking,” a reminder that Saturday, May 20, starting at 8 a.m., is Countywide Clean-Up Day. Each of the towns typically offer some sort of post-clean-up reward around noon for participation, check town websites for details, but the bigger reward is to do something positive for your community. Unincorporated areas of Summit County seem to get less attention, like Little Beaver Trail from Highway 6 to Dillon Valley, for example. In fact, the whole Interstate 70 right-of-way along Little Beaver Trail is a mess.

We all know there is a lot of trash that gets blown around and buried in snowbanks during winter storms, and, as we have more and more visitors, there seems to be more litter that finds its way onto roadsides and parking lots. I realize that many businesses are short employees, and even more so this time of year. I do not blame Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell or Kum & Go for how customers dispose of their food and drink packaging, yet it would be nice to see a little help from these establishments, and others, on Clean-Up Day. I must also call out the ownership/management of the Walgreen’s thru Panera Bread strip mall in Dillon. The amount of construction debris and general trash all strewn down the hillside is a disgrace.

Even if we clean-up a good portion of the miscellaneous litter, there is also a bigger problem that is   impacting our towns — vacant properties that are boarded up. I know this has received attention from local authorities, but there needs to be some accountability from the property owners to ensure the vacant space does not become a magnet for graffiti and trash dumped around the property. The Silverthorne Burger King, Arby’s and the partially demolished space adjacent to the Antler’s in Frisco come to mind.

At a minimum the boarded-up windows should be painted to match the building envelope color, or they should be painted to resemble window glazing. Graffiti should be promptly cleaned off, and trash dumped on the premises should be removed in a reasonable amount of time. I generally dislike more government involvement, but it may be necessary for the respective municipalities to clean-up these properties and place liens on the property to recover the public cost at sale or prior to redevelopment.  This is Summit County, not Baltimore, and this is our front porch. The failure to mitigate these blighted properties only hurts the remaining surrounding businesses, many of which are locally owned and need all the support they can get.

Another unsightly mess is the product of misguided code requirements. Most of our jurisdictions still require too many plants, bushes and trees to be planted when properties are developed. Many of these trees and plantings are placed in or around snow storage, so the trees and bushes are simply killed at great cost. Look at Lowe’s in Silverthorne, as an example. They would be better off removing the dead trees and allowing the remaining trees a chance to survive and grow, but they will remain dead sticks, or listing, unhealthy trees because, in theory, the dead trees must be replaced if they are removed.

On the residential side, required over planting becomes conflicting public policy. To achieve the required number of plantings, trees and bushes are crammed into any available spot on the property. However, water is a scare resource in Summit County, and in the western United States, and many of these trees and plantings require considerable water if they are going to survive. If they survive, they will ultimately have to be removed to create defensible space against fire. All we are doing is adding cost to build in an already expensive place and planting trees that have no chance of surviving. During my time on Silverthorne Town Council, we made two attempts to balance landscape requirements, but the long-term evidence suggests we clearly did not go far enough.

We live in a beautiful place. Thank you, in advance, to those who are planning to participate on Countywide Cleanup Day and to the local sponsoring businesses. To each and all, your efforts are very much appreciated.

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