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WHITEHALL — Village officials believe a Route 4 business is operating an illegal junkyard.

After receiving complaints from multiple residents, Mayor Phil Smith announced Tuesday that the village is “taking steps” against Smith Street Auto’s Poultney Street (Route 4) lot. Particularly, Smith said, the village is concerned that the lot violates the village’s junkyard ordinance.

“We’ve received letters about that property,” Smith said. “We are in the process of taking some steps.”

Smith said he has spoken on multiple occasions with the owner, Jared Mowatt, telling him he believes the lot is in violation of multiple village laws or ordinances.

“We’re going to address it in some form,” Smith said. “I think he’s in violation of at least four or five laws or ordinances. I’ve told him that.”

The issue has come up in the past, and Mowatt has argued that he is running a legitimate business and being unfairly targeted.

Smith said he is directing village zoning officer Pete Telisky to issue a formal warning for Mowatt to move cars located on the property. If Mowatt does not comply, Smith said, the village police would then be involved in citing Mowatt.

“He either gets them moved or there is a hefty fine,” Smith said.

Local attorney Harold Nicholson sent a letter to the village saying that multiple residents had approached him with concerns about the property. Nicholson demanded the village take action through its local junkyard law.

He called the lot “an unregistered junkyard,” and an “eyesore.” He added that he felt it was particularly bad to have the property on Route 4, the village’s main thoroughfare.

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“Is that really what we want the thousands of people who drive through our village every day to see?” Nicholson wrote.

Resident Steve St. Claire, who also owns an auto shop in the village, said he was concerned about the fact that the property is not on the tax rolls.

Officials said the property, formerly Martell’s Auto, is not on the tax rolls because Washington County refused to foreclose on it, after the state Department of Environmental Conservation warned of contamination issues on the land.

St. Claire argued that is unfair to other village residents, particularly because a new roof was recently constructed at the property.

“If any of us make our property nicer, what’s going to happen? Our taxes are going up,” he said.

“You’re not alone on this,” board member Teresa Austin told St. Claire. “There’s a lot of people asking the same questions.”

“If you have an issue with the tax side of it, that’s something you’ll have to take up with the county,” Village Attorney Erika Sellar Ryan told St. Claire.

According to Washington County Real Property’s tax database, the property is assessed at $120,000 and no tax bill was sent out.

An email to Mowatt, asking for comment on this story, was not returned by press time.

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Dan King is the Sunday Editor at the Post-Star. He also covers a few towns and villages in Washington County. Dan can be reached at dking@poststar.com.

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