This January 2020 photo shows cars piled up at an illegal junkyard on River Road in the Mendenhall Valley. On Monday night, the City and Borough City Assembly moved a step closer to starting to clean up the site. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

This January 2020 photo shows cars piled up at an illegal junkyard on River Road in the Mendenhall Valley. On Monday night, the City and Borough City Assembly moved a step closer to starting to clean up the site. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Illegal junkyard headed toward the trash heap

CBJ to solicit bids to clean up the property.

For several years, city officials have been trying to clean up an illegal junkyard in the Mendenhall Valley. Monday night, the City and Borough of Juneau moved a step closer to starting the work by unanimously voting to transfer $150,000 from the waste management operating budget to cover the initial cost of partially removing junked cars from the site.

CBJ City Manager Rorie Watt said that about 350 cars and large vehicle parts are currently on the property, located on River Road in the Back Loop area. The property is zoned residential, which explicitly prohibits selling, repairing or parking motor vehicles beyond incidental use, on the lot.

This isn’t the first time the Assembly has attempted to resolve this issue.

As the Juneau Empire reported last year, the property is owned by Dale Losselyong, who, according to city officials, has failed to sufficiently comply with requests and court orders to clean up his property for several years.

Assembly scraps illegal junkyard

“The issue is a long-standing one,” said CBJ municipal attorney Robert Palmer, during the Monday evening meeting. “If you ask the neighbors, they say it’s been going on for at least five to seven years.”

Palmer said that CBJ started voluntary action to resolve the situation in 2016 and then sued in the spring of 2019.

When substantial clean up did not occur, the city voted to appropriate $250,000 to hire a private contractor for the job. However, the contractor did not start work as Losselyong sought timeline extensions.

A year later, most of the derelict vehicles remain on the property.

“All the agreed-upon dates have been blown,” Palmer said.

In November, Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally issued a summary judgment resolving any lingering arguments about the violations at the site, clearing the way for the city to begin the process of removing the vehicles.

“We are now in the position to clean up the property for the community,” Palmer said.

With the hurdles cleared, the city is moving forward.

“We’ll do a bid solicitation, and the winner will be the one who can move the most vehicles,” Watt said.

He explained that several factors drive the cost and timing of the removal, including the availability of scrap barges and the price of scrap metal.

“One of the things that’s difficult is knowing the market price for disposing of these vehicles,” Watt said. He noted that he expects it to cost about $1,000 a vehicle. The city can recoup the money spent on the clean up through a court-ordered trust and lien process.

Last winter, Losselyong contended that he could dispose of the vehicles at a lower price point.

Junkyard owner wants to tell his side

Assemblymember Maria Gladziszewski, the lone member who sided with Losselyong’s request for more time last year, said she’d changed her mind about the situation. “He’s had plenty of time to deal with this,” she said.

“It is is not our desire to take this action. It’s gone on for a number of years. It’s taken up a lot of time, staff time, legal time. At this point, it’s our duty to take this action and protect peaceably living neighbors,” Watt said.

Assemblymember Wade Bryson shared his frustration that the issue was back before the assembly.

“We had this very discussion a year ago. We don’t want to be in this position again. If we don’t act definitively to enforce this stuff, it won’t get resolved. It’s crystal clear to me that we should have forced the clean up then. I could care less what the guy promises. It’s time for the city to step in,” Bryson said.

Losselyong did not attend the meeting, which took place via Zoom, and could not immediately be reached for comment.

His attorney, Brandon Marx, declined to comment. When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, he said that he had not yet spoken with Losselyong and was not yet aware of CBJ’s actions.

• Contact Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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