A contract crew began hauling off junk cars and other debris from a troubled property outside Philomath on Thursday after the owner missed a deadline to reduce the accumulated solid waste on the site to meet the legal limit.
Following months of complaints from neighbors, Danny Farmer reached an agreement with Benton County in March to remove the excessive amount of junk that had piled up on his 30-acre property at 24030 Old Peak Road and evict the squatters living illegally in camp trailers and motor homes.
Farmer met an April deadline to clear out the RVs and their occupants but missed the June 2 cutoff to get the solid waste below the legal threshold for the property’s forest conservation zoning, which allows landowners to amass up to eight derelict vehicles or the equivalent amount of solid waste before the site is considered an unlicensed junkyard.
After a site visit last Friday confirmed that a large amount of junk still remained on the premises, Benton County hired Apex Property Clearing of Albany to remove the excess waste. The county will place a lien on the property to recover the costs of the cleanup.
County code compliance officer Rebecca Taylor said Farmer had made a “significant” effort to clean up the mess over the last few months.
“I would say, from when I first inspected the property, possibly over half of the material has been removed,” Taylor told a reporter at the site on Thursday.
That still leaves a large amount of waste scattered around the property, from derelict cars, mounds of auto parts and heaps of building materials to discarded appliances, piles of old tires and at least one boat.
“I’ve budgeted for 400 cubic yards, which is right around 13 of those contractor dumpsters,” Apex Property Clearing owner John Origer said, pointing to a large steel container filled with scrap metal. “That will get it down to where it should be acceptable to the county, I would think.”
Origer estimated it would take him and his crew of three or four workers about seven days to haul away all the excess junk. They planned to work Thursday and Friday, then take the weekend off before coming back to wrap up the job by the end of next week.
“That will give (Farmer) a little more time,” he said. “Once we come back on Monday, it’s smash and grab — everything’s got to go.”
Even as the Apex crew started its work on Thursday, Origer said, Farmer was still trying to salvage scrap metal and other items that might be worth money.
“Hoarders, they have their own way of thinking about things,” he said.
“They don’t have any ill will or bad intentions (but) they see value in just about everything,” he added. “I don’t blame them — I see value in a lot of this stuff. But getting it to the people who want it or need it is difficult when you have this much stuff.”
County officials have received reports that Farmer had been moving some of the solid waste from the site to a tract of timberland his family owns farther up Old Peak Road, but Taylor said her inspection last week showed that was not the case.
“Based on what we saw, we had no concerns with stuff being taken up there,” she said.