When Sofiella Watt and the Huckleberry Bandits were scouting locations for their music video ‘Junkyard Bettie’ last year, they happened upon Joe Moyer’s Granite Road property in Blewett and decided it would make a perfect backdrop for their debut single. He allowed them to film there free, playing amidst waist-high weeds and derelict vehicles.
Moyer’s property, which is a stone’s throw from Kootenay Lake and Taghum Beach, has been drawing complaints from neighbours and interventions from the RDCK since 2009, as evidenced by a lengthy correspondence Moyer shared with the Star. And following a meeting last Wednesday, he has approximately a month to clean up before they send in contractors to do it for him.
“I’ve lived here for 25 years, and there’s no zoning here. This is my income too, because I have a few rentals. I sell parts and do automotive work, so they’re screwing with my livelihood,” Moyer, 63, said.
“I’ve got some cars out here that are really rare, like a 1955 Mercury Sun Valley — which they only made 741 of that year — and I want to spend my retirement restoring some of this stuff.”
But according to Area E director Ramona Faust, the community’s concerns have reached a fever pitch — on top of routine complaints, the fire department has informed the RDCK they can’t send firefighters onto the property due to safety concerns, the Ministry of Highways has gotten involved, and they’ve received photographic evidence of a trailer fire on the premises in 2009.
“It really comes down to property values, the safety of the surrounding properties and the safety of those people who may live on the property that are not the owners,” she said.
And these concerns could be addressed in a number of ways.
“I would like to see the cars with little or no value removed. I’d like to see them straightened out in rows, I’d like to see all the garbage and derelict refrigerators and appliances gone so the property might be defensible in a fire. Then we’d like to make sure that anything habitated meets building code” said Faust. “That would be the best outcome.”
Area E currently has a bylaw that governs unsightly premises. It was rescinded at some point in the past — “I don’t know the whole story and there’s no one at the RDCK that does,” said Faust — but about three months into her directorship she decided to bring it back.
“I started getting complaints about this property and others. We had a discussion with the RDCK about the right way to approach it, through an official community plan or a standalone bylaw. By 2013 we had received so many complaints I decided to reinstate it.”
And starting in 2013, after rewriting the bylaw to make it less restrictive, they started to enforce it, contacting a number of properties throughout Area E. That’s when her interactions with Moyer began, leading to a series of events that culminated in last week’s meeting.
“The neighbours wouldn’t mind if there were 10 cars or so, but they’re concerned — are the cars drained or draining? Is that entering the aquifer? And nobody knows how many of those trailers are occupied.”
Bev Jensen, who lives on the property with Moyer, said she feels the RDCK should allow rural property owners to determine their own aesthetic.
“You buy a property, you own a property, you should be able to do what you want with it. I agree it could be cleaned up a bit, but I don’t think they have the right to come on the property and haul everything away.”
Moyer is frustrated.
“I think their goal is to drive me away from here,” he said.
Faust said if Moyer’s made significant progress before the RDCK’s October meeting, no further intervention will be required.
Faust has put Moyer in touch with local contractors who can remove his scrap metal and cars for free.
“I would prefer if Joe does this himself because I know him and I want him to feel like he’s in charge.”