Neighbors rally to address unsanitary properties near Butte
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Residents of a Matanuska-Susitna Borough community want local and state authorities to act against two properties they contend are littered with junk vehicles, squatters and unsanitary conditions.
About 100 residents at a meeting Wednesday in Butte complained about owners of two multi-acre “compounds” who have let vehicles accumulate and let people live in them, KTVA-television reported.
“When their decisions begin to affect my family, that’s when their rights end and mine begin and I’ve had it,” said David Miller.
Butte is an unincorporated community of about 3,600 spread out along 7 miles (11 kilometers) of the Old Glenn Highway south of Palmer.
Mike Sweeney, a resident for more than 40 years, says property behind his home has dozens of broken-down cars and what looks like a small landfill. “Most of what you see right there is straight-up household trash,” Sweeney said.
The 7.5-acre (3 hectare) property belongs to Robert Mason Henry and Raymond Close. The men live out of state and the property has been taken over by squatters, according to borough employees.
People live in cars, campers and even a semi on the property, Sweeney said.
“The lack of any sanitation over there. No outhouses, did you see any?” Sweeney said. “And the borough and the DEC (Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation) said they don’t do anything about that residentially so it’s a concern.”
A few miles away, neighbors complain about a property owned by Preston Pyrah, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Neighbors say drug users hang out in cars left on the property.
A borough official says they must rely on code compliance officers.
“Our officers are not carrying guns, they can’t arrest people. We can’t pull people over,” said development services manager Alex Strawn. “Our biggest stick we have is citations, so we hit them in the pocketbook.”
The borough covers an area about the size of West Virginia with four compliance officers.
“Between the four officers we have 200 open cases. And I can tell you that as bad as these three places are, there are several others throughout the borough,” Strawn said.
The borough has sued Henry and Close for violating the junk laws. Borough attorney Nick Spiropoulos said the owners told him they plan to evict the people squatting on the property, but they have not replied to the lawsuit.
The borough also filed a civil lawsuit against Pyrah and a court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Information from: KTVA-TV, http://www.ktva.com