SILT, Colorado - A local resident is worried he may end up losing his home as a result of a dispute with the town of Silt that landed him in municipal court on Friday.
Mark Anderson, 59, has been given two weeks to clear out a semi-trailer, two recreational vehicles, a couple of sheds and an unknown quantity of materials filling up the yard of his 5,000-square-foot property at 230 N. Seventh St. in Silt.
Following a court hearing on Friday, he was fined more than $1,300, including court costs and fees, for violating two town ordinances governing yard maintenance and clutter. He faces significantly increased fines if he does not comply with the orders of Silt Municipal Judge Care McInnis.
"Two weeks is impossible," Anderson told the judge, noting that he is currently unemployed, and that the only income to his household comes from his wife's work crocheting woolen hats.
"Ultimately the town will own my property. They will steal it from me," Anderson complained.
"Well, if that's the way it ends, it would be incredibly unfortunate," the judge responded.
Anderson called the two-week deadline unreasonable and asked for six months to clean up his property. He pointed to the harsh winter weather and his inability to hire help as insurmountable obstacles.
But the judge rejected his request.
"I can see that what you think is reasonable and what the town thinks is reasonable are going to be different things," she said.
She warned him that if he does not clear out his property within two weeks, the town will begin fining him $200 per day, per count, for a total of $400 per day until the town is satisfied with the condition of his yard.
Town officials have said they've tried for a decade to get Anderson to clean up his yard, and the hearing was a result of inspections and discussions that have been under way since last summer.
At one point in the hearing, Silt Police Officer Karla Scholz testified that during an inspection in November, it appeared Anderson was "in compliance" as far as the condition of his yard that Scholz could see from Anderson's front gate.
But town prosecutor Jeff Conklin said the officer's testimony could not be accepted because she had not seen the entire yard.
The hearing ended with the judge finding Anderson guilty and ordering town officials to monitor his progress in the cleanup to be sure he complied.
Anderson, who grew up on Holmes Mesa south of Rifle, bought the lot and home where he lives in 1990, he said. Over the following decade, he parked various vehicles and built sheds in the yard.
Anderson maintains that the things in his yard are not junk, but items of value that he has collected over the years on the chance he might have a use for them some day.
"You don't throw away things that can still be of use," he said shortly before Friday's hearing. He learned the value of hanging onto things from his father, who farmed through the years of the Great Depression.
As he was leaving Town Hall following the hearing, Anderson remarked bitterly but with some humor, "The town needs a new parking lot, and my property just happens to be close."