Chris Knight has a fascinating piece in yesterday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise about a family near Paul Smiths that is allegedly operating an unauthorized junkyard. Read the article and see a photograph here.
The property is filled with old cars, trucks, camper trailers, motor vehicle parts and other junk. The stuff has been accumulating for many years, highly visible on this main Adirondack highway.
The Adirondack Park Agency has launched an enforcement case, hoping to force the family to clean up the mess.
Knight’s article touches on an issue I’ve been wrestling with for a long time: the notion that in the absence of regulation and enforcement, people will do the right thing, caring for the land and for their neighborhoods.
Last month at the public hearing on the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort this was a constant refrain by local residents who testified.
We know best, they argued. We’ve been caring for the Adirondacks — and caring for it well — for a long time.
Bluntly, I’m skeptical. I spend a lot of time in my pick-up truck driving around the Adirondacks, and I see a lot of really appalling cases of people not taking care of their land.
In my adopted hometown of Saranac Lake, meanwhile, we suffer from a plague of slumlords who have allowed their buildings to sag and crumble for years.
Parts of the downtown look flat-out grim, not because of government interference or neglect, but because a handful of private owners aren’t showing the care and stewardship that our community deserves.
What do these cases say about our ability to self-regulate? What do they say about our ability to cajole our neighbors into doing the right thing without heavy-handed government intervention?
Obviously, government oversight can be taken to ridiculous extremes. People shouldn’t be hassled over inconsequential or small-scale aesthetic issues, by the APA, by local zoning boards, or anyone else.
But when people’s junk piles mar whole neighborhoods, or when their eyesore buildings raise real public safety concerns — including vermin and fire hazards — surely that’s evidence that community pride and enlightened self-interest aren’t enough.
As always, your thoughts are welcome.