Colfax Twp. asks county for assistance in remedying junk-filled property

REFUSE REFUGE: The view beyond a deteriorating makeshift fence built from garage door paneling has prompted Colfax Township residents and officials to file complaints with the Mecosta County Building and Zoning Department. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

REFUSE REFUGE: The view beyond a deteriorating makeshift fence built from garage door paneling has prompted Colfax Township residents and officials to file complaints with the Mecosta County Building and Zoning Department. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

COLFAX TWP. — A property less than a mile from Colfax Township Hall is an eyesore township officials have attempted to address numerous times over the past several years.

“We’ve received complaints from people in our township. It hasn’t been overwhelming but the complaints have been from the neighbors in the immediate area,” said Nick Kaye, township supervisor. “We have called zoning numerous times. The zoning department is the enforcing agency on those ordinances.”

The Colfax Township property is different from other cases of blighted properties, according to Mecosta County Building and Zoning Department Director Michelle Stenger.

“This case has been going on longer than it should have, probably out of my sympathy for the person involved,” she said. “When we started, she had so much stuff and she didn’t think any of it was junk. It’s a hoarding issue – It’s not junk to her. It was out all the way to where the car is and you had to walk through a pathway to get to the door.”

Stenger said Sheryl Derevage, the property owner, did comply several years ago with requests to clean up her property by placing the various items on her yard behind a fence.

“It’s a makeshift fence made out of garage door paneling, but it’s a fence. It’s providing blockage of the view of everything behind it,” Stenger said.

Recently the makeshift fence has started to deteriorate, exposing the yard to view from the road. A non-functioning vehicle in the driveway has also been a source of concern for the township. Derevage claimed the vehicle had parts stolen which left it inoperable, Stenger said.

“She thinks because there was crime against her it’s not her responsibility to deal with the vehicle,” she said.

It’s difficult to measure the property’s effect on the market, but it’s not unreasonable to think a yard filled with refuse could influence a potential buyer, Kaye said.

“If a neighbor were trying to market a home or a property and people looked in that could deter a sale, for sure. The only blessing is the house is kind of in a wooded area,” he said. “If someone is new to the area and trying to take everything in, it’s going to stand out like a sore thumb.”

There have been some actions taken to address the issue, but with questions as to whether Derevage is still residing at the property, a lot of things are up in the air, Stenger said.

“Last fall we talked to her and gave her six months to sell the car and fix the fence. Her six months are up at the end of April – I just sent her a reminder letter to let her know her time is running out to do something,” she said.

Stenger said she understands the township’s frustration.

“I know the township is getting frustrated because it’s taking a long time. Once she sells the car and fixes the fence some of the things in the side of the yard need to go behind the fence, but there’s nothing we can do once it’s behind the fence – if the fence is in good condition,” she said.

Kaye said it’s not all on Stenger to address the issue.

“She’s had good results with other complaints with junk related problems,” he said.  “I don’t want a lot of pressure on anybody if they are trying to do things right and make an effort to clean the property up, but when we get complaints we have to pass them on to the zoning department. The enforcement isn’t on us, but we are part of the process of getting something like this handled.”

If Derevage does not comply with the building and zoning deparment’s request by the end of April, she could be ticketed and fined, Stenger said.

“We would write a ticket for her appearance in district court and there would be a fine. The fine is usually around $150 with 30 days to resolve the problem,” she said.

Attempts were made to contact Derevage, but were not successful.

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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