Chaffee County has filed to remove the constitutional rights lawsuit filed by Alison Brown against the county, two staff members and the Board of County Commissioners from District 11 Court to U.S. Federal Court. The removal request was filed on May 3, by the county’s new attorney Leslie Schluter, of Greenwood Village-based Dagner Schluter Mitzner Werber LLC.
The request removes the proceedings from hearing by jury trial within District 11 and places it in the jurisdiction of the District of Colorado. The case is now a federal jury trial on the docket of Judge Christine Arguello, to be handled by Judge Magistrate Scott Varholak in federal court in Denver. The notice of removal was followed by a May 7 request to U.S. Federal Court to dismiss the entire case. The removal is confirmed, the motion to dismiss has had no response.
On March 28 Brown filed a constitutional rights lawsuit in District 11 Court against Chaffee County, the Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners, as well as Director of Development Services Dan Swallow and Planning Manager Jon Roorda. The suit filed by Brown’s attorneys, Charlie Cain and Michael Scott, alleges constitutional claims for damages related to “Chaffee County’s actions and in-actions related to Dr. Brown’s property on Antelope Road.”
Brown owns 11600 Antelope Road as well as the parcel directly to the south, 11555 Antelope Road. The properties have been at the center of an ongoing saga related to Brown’s horse stables, alleged outfitting activities and her attempts to obtain a permit for her kennel of American foxhounds which she directs as a Master of Foxhounds.
Brown’s suit alleges that Chaffee County “through its staff and governmental units, rendered Dr. Brown homeless for a period of approximately five months, forcing her to dry camp on her two parcels during the middle of winter, suffering severe emotional and physical distress as well as substantial economic harm associated with the denial of the use of her land, the loss of investments made in her properties and ultimately, the expense associated with relocating her foxhounds and ‘outfitting facilities’ to another county.”
Her lawsuit goes on to say that the county deprived her of her property rights in violation of constitutional protections by first granting Brown a permit to construct her home, certifying her lawful use and zoning compliance, only to subsequently and substantially alter its position and determine her use is unlawful.
An earlier Ark Valley Voice article, detailing Brown’s filing of a constitutional rights lawsuit, is available here: www.arkvalleyvoice.com/brown-files-constitutional-rights-lawsuit-against-chaffee-county.
On May 3, the county rejected Brown’s appeal of the Chaffee County Planning Commission’s denial of her kennel application. The commissioners’ decision came only one week prior to the ruling by District 11 Magistrate Amanda Hunter, which appears to contradict their stated reasons for the decision. Hunter found that Brown’s activities did indeed constitute agricultural activity, that she was not held by deed restrictions claimed by her neighbors to cover her property and limit her use of the road to her property. Further, Hunter found that the ranching family (the Everett family) who had sold the initial parcels had never intended to create a ‘residential enclave,” only to provide protection for their ranching operation.
While insisting that Brown must be an outfitter and thus held by Chaffee County Land Use Code restraints, the county has, for more than a year, acknowledged that it does not, in fact, have an actual definition of an outfitter.
Earlier attempts to define outfitting using LUC resulted in a situation where the county attempted to define Brown’s use of her land as an outfitting facility, but then could not determine how her structures and activities actually correlated to outfitting actions. That attempt lead the magistrate to comment on the constitutionality of the county’s actions, adding that “the county’s definition of outfitting facilities may sweep in conduct that is as benign as a grandfather taking his grandson out for a horseback ride.”
Asked about the cost of a trial in a federal court, Chaffee County Attorney Jenny Davis said that the county is a member of a county insurance pool called County Technical Services Inc. that provides the council for the case whether in federal or district court.
Editor’s note: Alison Brown is an investor in Ark valley Voice, but has no editorial control.