July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:29 PM
"We're pleased to see that Island County has shut down another illegal junkyard on North Whidbey. These ugly examples of property rights gone bad have negative repercussions that stretch well beyond property lines.Aside from the obvious visual mess, which ruins views, hurts tourism and degrades land values, these residential dump sites also pose potential health risks through contamination of soil and ground water and by providing a multi-acre growth medium for rats, roaches and bacteria. In addition, the properties can become sites for drug trafficking and other illegal activities.For several years, the News-Times has taken calls from concerned and angry neighbors of such junkyards - neighbors frustrated that so little was being done to get the messes cleaned up. We suspect the county has taken many more calls than we have.Island County officials brought a lot of the problems on themselves. They had no problem writing laws prohibiting such junkyards but didn't get serious about enforcing the laws until the late 1990s when they hired Phil Bakke as the county's first code enforcement officer. Now as planning director, Bakke brings what he's learned to the forefront. So far, his talk has been tough and hopefully this latest instance of a junkyard crackdown is an indication that his actions will be likewise.At the same time, the county commissioners appear to be giving him some added muscle by hiring a new deputy prosecutor who will specialize in land-use issues and by personally showing they are not afraid to foreclose on violators.Sure, it takes taxpayer money to clean these places up, but we think it's a worthwhile investment. Not only is there a good chance we'll get our money back when the county sells the land, but it also sends the message to both the lawbreakers and their neighbors that such mistreatment of Whidbey Island is unacceptable to all of us. "