Community, County Ordinances, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Litter vs Artifacts?

If you leave trash sitting around long enough (about 50 years), something mysterious happens and it stops being litter (punishable by a $200 fine) and becomes an archaeological resource which if you remove from federal land could lead to a $500 fine and six moths in jail.

What’s the difference?

Litter is, according to the Lincoln County Ordinance:

“Litter” means any quantity of uncontained or openly stored materials which may be classified as trash, debris, rubbish, refuse, garbage or junk, including but not limited to:
a) any worn out or discarded material that is ready for destruction or has been collected or stored for recycling or salvage;
b) old or scrap metals, wire, rope, batteries, paper, tires, cardboard, plastic, cans, wood, concrete, glass, crockery, or rubber;
c) dead domestic animals;
d) animal and vegetable wastes from the handling, preparation, cooking, and the consumption of food that is not incorporated into a properly maintained compost system;
e) discarded, broken, or unusable furniture, fencing, or building materials,
f) discarded, broken, or non-functioning appliances, campers, mobile homes, junk vehicles, machinery, fixtures, or any component parts thereof, that are serving no apparent purpose, or will not be made to function within a reasonable time;”

Ordinance 2018-02 – Litter Control

It’s probably worth noting that Lincoln County’s litter ordinance doesn’t just apply to roadsides: “It is unlawful for an owner, lessee, or occupant of private property to allow litter to accumulate on his or her property.” As with the community decay ordinance, there appears to be some potential for overlap between “yard art” and “illegal”.

Archaeological resources are broadly defined by federal law, and include trash over 50 years in age (though only if it is of archaeological interest– that is, “capable of providing scientific or humanistic understanding of past human behavior, cultural adaptation, and related topics…”) Archaeological resources are covered by 36 CFR 261.9 (theft of government property, penalty of up to 500$ and/or up to 6 months imprisonment), which means that they are illegal to remove from federal lands.

So, 50+ year old trash? If it’s on federal ground, leaving it is the safer bet. On private property, while explaining it was an artifact rather than litter might make for an interesting argument, that $200 (each day) fine might also prove persuasive.

Litter, to be removed? Or an artifact to remain? Sometimes labels provided clues, allowing the item to be dated, and making the determination easier.

Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Community Decay: Part 3

At long last, what exactly is community decay?

Community decay “may include, but is not limited to any discarded substance, item, or material, such as cardboard, paper, pallets, tires, iron, or metal; demolition waste; construction or building material, such as bricks, concrete, or wood; junk vehicles; ruined or unusable boats, trailers, campers, or mobile homes, vehicle or machine parts; dead animals or animal parts; appliances; furniture; branches, logs, yard trimmings, or garden waste; or any other similar materials, items, waste, parts, or substances.”

So, what is, and what isn’t community decay? I’ll offer some examples and consider whether they might potentially be community decay.

  • That old car your neighbor is working on. It’s blocked up and he’s been making repairs on it after he gets home from work

Is that old car community decay? Looking at the definition of junk vehicles…

That car could be described as dismantled, and it’s definitely not capable of being driven at this precise moment. So, junk vehicle? Based on this definition, it may well be one. Is it community decay? To meet the definition of community decay, the car would have to be “discarded”, so probably not. The more interesting question is how long can the project car sit, while the owner is busy with other things, before it is considered “Discarded”, and thus, community decay?

The community decay ordinance fails to provide a definition for discarded, but one suspects it’s a word with gradations of meaning. After all, my “I’ll get to this project again someday” pile looks an awful lot like abandoned clutter until I get back to the project.

Community, County Ordinances, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Community Decay… Part 2

What exactly is community decay? Who does this apply to?

The Community Decay Ordinance for Lincoln County (2018-05) reads “It is unlawful for any person to maintain conditions that contribute to community decay on property owned, occupied, or controlled by him or her on or adjacent to any public roadway within the county.”

At this point, one might breath a sigh of relief. “On or adjacent to any public roadway”- that can’t apply to very much of the county, right?

Ah, but this ordinance begins with definitions. Adjacent: “beside, next to, contiguous or nearby. Properties adjacent to any public roadway and properties within public view, as defined within this ordinance”

This is a rather broad definition of adjacent, and I’d encourage the reader to consider how many places they know of that are “beside, next to, contiguous or nearby” a public roadway.

Next. Public view: “any area visible from any point up to six feet above the surface of the center of any public roadway”

So now we have any property “beside, next to, contiguous or nearby” any public roadway and “any area visible from any point up to six feet above the surface of the center of any public roadway”…

I’d encourage the reader to imagine just how far one could see from six feet above the center of a public roadway on a hill.

But wait- there’s more! All this assumes that we know what a public roadway is (it’s a road- right? Not quite). Fortunately, the ordinance includes a definition. Public roadway- “any highway, road, alley, lane, parking area, or other public or private space adapted and fitted for public travel that is in common use by the public”

So, that leaves us with a rather broad idea of what sort of places community decay is not allowed. And we haven’t even gotten to what community decay actually is! More next time.

County Ordinances, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Community Decay…Part 1

One could be forgiven for assuming that community decay ordinances were the business of rather fussy municipalities in places other than here. One would, as it happens, be wrong on two counts. Lincoln County, Montana, has one.

Back in December of 2018 the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners adopted Ordinance 2018-05 “An Ordinance to Control Community Decay Within Lincoln County and to Establish Procedures for its Enforcement”.

So, this leaves us with several pressing questions:

  • What exactly is community decay?
  • Who does this apply to?
  • Enforcement?

None of these have short answers, so I’ll discuss each in depth in later posts. For now, the quick summary:

  • Community Decay
    • Anything that is injurious to health, indecent, offensive to the senses, or an obstructive of the free use of property so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property...” that affects multiple people. Unless it’s agricultural- then, it’s okay.
  • Who does this apply to?
    • Renters/Landowners on property in the county adjacent to a public roadway (We’ll discuss what exactly a public roadway is, for these purposes, at a later date)
  • Enforcement
    • Misdemeanor: Fine up to $500 and/or 6 months imprisonment (Each day of violation is a separate violation…)