Potsdam town board gives junkyard moratorium six more months, passes 'rights of the river'

Nov. 23—POTSDAM — A town of Potsdam junkyard moratorium has been extended another six months. They also passed a motion saying the Raquette River watershed should have legally enforceable environmental rights.

The Town Council took the action during its November monthly meeting, following a public hearing that drew no comments.

The moratorium is aimed at private lots with junk cars stored on the property. Salvage yards with proper permits aren't affected.

In May, code enforcement officer Jeffrey K. Murray said he's concerned about junk cars accumulating on residential lots, as well as trash building up and not being removed. At the time, he said the vehicles pose environmental risks because the parts corrode and can leak up to 24 gallons of chemicals, polluting the ground. He said the contamination is especially problematic on lots where 15 or more cars are sitting. He also said when garbage builds up and isn't removed, it can cause rat infestations that can spill over onto neighboring properties.

He said there's a difference between salvage yards and residents storing junk cars on their lots. Salvage yards are regulated, have permits from the town and sell parts from the stored vehicles.

There is a legal process for dealing with lots storing an excess of junk cars. It starts with issuing letters of remedy, which gives the property owner 30 days to fix the code issues.

If the property owner doesn't respond to the letter, the next step is to write a ticket and bring the case to court.

The moratorium is to give the town more time to adjust the existing local codes governing junk storage.

In other news, the board passed a motion in support of giving legally enforceable rights to the Raquette River and its watershed to prevent human-made environmental harm.

"The Raquette River (Ahná:wate) is the lifeblood of the human and natural communities that make up its Watershed and surrounding ecosystems; and the Raquette River has since time immemorial sustained an immense diversity of species all connected in a tapestry of interdependent life; and communities around the world and across the North Country are legally recognizing the Rights of Rivers to protect the water that brings life to their communities." the resolution reads.

The resolution adds, "the Potsdam Town Council pledges to work towards a review of local law for the purpose of recognizing and securing those rights, while providing for ways that the residents of the Town can enforce those rights."