RANGELY I As a freelance reporter for the Herald Times, I have spent countless hours listening to, engaging with and writing about one of the largest players in our fair community, the town government.
I’ve covered more council, board and commission meetings for various governmental agencies than I can count. One side effect of spending all this time with so many factions of government is an inherently jaded view on all things bureaucratic.
The snail’s pace that government can often move at, the sometimes intrusive decisions, and the endless hours of talk can leave a person a bit of a skeptic. However I’ve also seen some truly positive things come from the governments of our small communities, and the cooperation that the Town of Rangely and local gardener Jeremy Coleman showed while working on Coleman’s unusual garden has proven to be one of those striking moments.
Coleman’s non-traditional garden came into question several weeks ago by Rangely Code Enforcement for his extensive use of tree limbs and branches as well as some other unusual items, including a boat and raised boat trailer. The town claims they were receiving complaints about the appearance of the yard from neighbors, which prompted an investigation into the property.
Coleman received a notice from the town, informing him that he had 10 days to clean up the yard or face an unclear level of fines or court summons. The letter cited various code violations and told him he had to remove items that were “not serving the purpose they were created to serve.”
When I first spoke with Coleman, he was desperate to save his garden and immediately contacted the town to request a meeting and the chance to explain the intentional nature of his yard.
The town obliged.
The meeting was attended by various town representatives including the town manager, mayor, a code enforcement officer and Coleman, who was accompanied by a few of his supporters. Notably absent were the complaint-issuing neighbors.
The town quickly explained to Coleman that the widespread use of branches was a dangerous fire hazard for his and the neighboring homes.
Coleman immediately stated he understood and he offered to begin the process of removing the branches the next day. From there, the town agreed to have the code enforcement officer meet with Coleman to help him develop a plan for the garden that could still meet his unique tastes, but also be built to code and satisfy all parties involved.
The meeting of these two entities, seemingly at odds, was a breath of fresh air in this world of top down government regulations.
Together they were able to disprove the old adage—that a negotiation is only successful when both parties leave unhappy—showing that when government takes the time to work with the people, the government can truly improve the communities they serve.