Supervisors uphold fines in eyesore case

2013-03-13T05:15:00Z 2013-03-13T08:44:52Z Supervisors uphold fines in eyesore caseCYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
March 13, 2013 5:15 am  • 

Steve Calkins is an outspoken landlord who's been attempting to get Coconino County to change the way it finds and cites owners for unkempt or hazardous conditions on private property.

On Tuesday the Coconino County Board of Supervisors upheld zoning violations against the Timberline resident for having mobile homes, unpermitted construction and a trash pile spanning perhaps 80 feet at one rental property off Leupp Road, in Alpine Ranchos.

It's a property dispute likely bound for court.

Calkins owns a dozen rental properties and has been cited by the county repeatedly.

Other property owners in Alpine Ranchos have been cited in the past year, too.

The county's enforcement system mostly uses neighbors complaining about neighbors to prompt county action, which can lead to clusters of complaints and hearings for given neighborhoods.

"The county isn't really going out looking for violations," said Nathan Gonzalez, a spokesman for Coconino County.

It's a system that's going to remain.

"We basically just have the staff to handle the complaints that come in and investigate them as timely as we can," he said.

This was a clear case of a longstanding zoning violation, a county attorney said in asking the board to rule in the zoning department's favor.

"We think the evidence is overwhelming," Deputy Coconino County Attorney Bill Ring told the board.

The reasons Calkins has been cited date back more than 1 1/2 years, and Calkins has contested most of them -- and most points of fact in the case -- while Alpine Ranchos neighbors have faced fines of hundred of dollars per day for not cleaning up their properties.

Calkins says he has paid tenants to remove most of the garbage from the site.

-- He disputes that his "cottage" was added to in 1990 and 1996, as the Coconino County Assessor's office (where his wife works) found, and that a large vehicle on the site is a commercial vehicle, rather than a storage container.

-- He disputes that he had access to files holding photographs and permits regarding his own property, saying the county should have mailed them to him, rather than him visiting an office to look at them.

"The exhibits taken at the hearing have not been received -- have never been received," he told the Coconino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Calkins says he wasn't served legal documents properly and on the stated date, telling the person serving him he didn't know what date it was.

-- He says he was told it was acceptable to burn trash (illegal under federal law), and attempted to call the county's attorney as his witness on another point.

-- And Calkins asserted that he wasn't properly informed of his right to an attorney -- and also that the agency lost his building permit from the 1970s.

That building permit is key, in that the county wants him to bring this rental up to standards required in a modern permit.

"It's going to cost me probably $20,000 to $40,000 and I think that's extortion," Calkins said.

The Board of Supervisors took a brief recess to receive legal advice in private on Tuesday. They returned to affirm the complaints against Calkins unanimously, with no comment.

Calkins' rental property is in Supervisor Mandy Metzger's district.

She referred questions on the matter, through her assistant, to a county spokesman or Interim County Manager Mike Townsend.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at ccole@azdailysun.com or at 913-8607.

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