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County ready for Tavern cleanup

From the February 14, 2001 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Blue River Tavern fireBLUE RIVER: A charred pile of debris and plastic “Caution” tape apparently aren’t what Lane County had in mind for cleanup efforts following last December’s fiery destruction of the Blue River Tavern. By not erecting a fence and promptly hauling away the remains, tavern owner Peter Metoxen is now at odds with the county’s nuisance ordinances.

As of Monday, the county finalized an abatement order authorizing crews from the Public Works Dept. to clean up the site and bill the property owner for their work. Not counting weekends and holidays, the order includes a ten day waiting period. That means county workers could be on-site as early as February 27.

John Cole, Land Management Division manager for the county, said even without those potential cleanup costs financial liabilities related to the fire have been mounting. Daily fines of $1,000 have been levied since Metoxen was notified of his failure to comply back in January. The total for those fines now exceeds $20,000.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Metoxen has been billed $900 a day for problems on another property he owns, the Rock-A-Bye cabins on the McKenzie Highway west of Elk Creek. Cole said the civil penalties associated with the placement of a mobile home on that property were up to $11,700 as of Friday. “What will happen with this is if the fine is not paid after 60 days, the county will file a lien against the property,” Cole said. That opens the possibility of county legal action similar to a foreclosure in that the county counsel could either force the sale of the property or take over ownership by the county.

It’s also possible the Rock-A-Bye fine could be assessed daily during the 60 day waiting period, adding another $54,000 in penalties.

Cole said this sort of situation is not following the usual course of events. Overall, he noted, the threat of fines often is the nudge that forces action. Every year only about three or four properties reach the point of county foreclosure. “To be honest, we don’t get to this stage often,” Cole said. “The abatement component is relatively new in our ordinance. This is the first time we’re exercising it. I hope it works.”

Image above: Without fencing, county officials fear debris left from a December fire at the Blue River Tavern poses a public safety hazard.

This article is part of a series from the NewsArk, a project to preserve the history of the McKenzie River area. It involves the creation of a digitized collection of back issues of McKenzie River Reflections as well as the preservation of historical documents, photos and diaries. Contributions to help support the NewsArk can be sent to: McKenzie River Publishing, POB 172, Blue River, OR 97413.


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