Two appeals to the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) by Alison Brown of county decisions related to her application for an outfitting permit application and a kennel application were heard during a nearly five-hour special public hearing on the evening of March 27. Commissioners upheld the injunction requiring her to get an outfitting facility license and moved to continue the kennel application public hearing to 5:30 p.m. on April 16.
“I’m appealing here the injustice – I should never have been asked to do this outfitting limited impact review,” said Brown, whose property at 11600 Antelope Road is zoned rural. “I want the injunction lifted. The injunction has been in place for a year. I don’t want an outfitting permit. I just want to go out and ride with my friends as a non-commercial entity, using the animals that are housed on my property.”
In making their ruling regarding the outfitting facility application, the BoCC again noted that county staff has still not given them a definition of outfitter as was requested. That fact appears to underlie their unwillingness to override the District Court Order Imposing a Permanent Injunction, imposed in May 2018. The decision was not without questions on the part of commissioners to staff about what they can and cannot do.
“That injunction from Judge Amanda Hunter required that [Jon] Roorda (planning manager) do an inspection of my property,” said Brown.“The judge said the injunction was in place until the county ruled otherwise.”
“I’m not sure we can do that [overrule district court],” said Commissioner Greg Felt.
“It could be modified,” said Assistant County Attorney Daniel Tom. “We could ask for it to be removed.”
Brown said her decision to appeal was related to the fact that the county still has no definition of what “an outfitter” is. It is nearly 10 months since the June 8, 2018, joint session of commissioners and planning commission in which commissioners directed county staff to come up with a definition. It has been six months since a direct request for an update from the county, by resident Dave Moore, yielded a negative response that anything was in process.
The current definition of outfitting facility in the Chaffee County Land Use Code does not specify that permitted outfitting activities be commercial. Brown’s foxhunting and riding activities are private, not commercial. While the staff report references the definition used in the District Court Order Imposing Permanent Injunction, it still has not provided a definition of its own, a reality of concern for many residents of the county who remain unsure whether they also are at risk of county action against them.
Chaffee County has never permitted a single outfitting facility. Thus it has never clarified whether its here-to-fore permitting actions would be linked to commercial outfitting activities, or would apply to any resident doing any type of outfitting actions for personal or private reasons.
“Whatever you decide today is going to be impressive – it’s what will happen to every single outfitting facility in the county,” said Brown. “If you’re intent is non-commercial – then put that intent into the record. Lift the injunction, remove the restrictions that will set a precedent that will help anybody else going forward.”
The public hearing was wide-ranging, with comments from neighbors and county residents for and against Brown’s request. Comments included accusations of riders on the rough county road, the impact of extra traffic on Antelope Road, that Brown should be required to have a commercial transportation permit to access her driveway, that she needed a different wastewater system, and that what she did with her property was outside the nature of the community.
Some neighbors have filed a lawsuit seeking to limit Brown’s use of the road accessing her property. Asked about whether there was a road maintenance agreement among the 10 neighbors on the road, James Hutchins who lives at 10985 Antelope Rd. said “We were going to form one, but when I asked about forming an association to charge an annual fee for the road, they (other neighbors) objected to the fact that we could put a lean on their property and all the people said ‘no’.” He added, “There is no money for road base.”
“I ride mules. I haven’t been involved in fox hunting. I have provided testimony on April 24, May 8, and submitted correspondence on June 15 and Sept. 25, 2018,” said Kate Larkin, a retired attorney. “All are consistent with my opinion that the county’s outfitting definition is so vague – and gives no guidance – that it is unenforceable. What troubles me, because of the vagueness and the attempts to apply it, is we have ended up in a convoluted situation. It has left her, and me with my mules to wonder whether I am an outfitting facility? I’m in the same zoning as Alison Brown …. What troubles me with the position taken is the constitutionality of it.”
“I happen to be with a couple local ranchers last spring moving several hundred of cattle up Ute Trail, a path that’s been used for more than 100 years,” said Clint Cordova. “ I want to clarify accusations made against Alison Brown that were false. Coming back several hours later, part of our group was in front riding horses and they didn’t look like (western) cattle horsemen, they were wearing helmets and riding Arabian horses. They were stereotyped as with Alison. We were confronted (by neighbors) and accused of trespassing. We weren’t.”
“We have 10 Antelope Road landowners that object to this outfitting facility,” said Chris Vely, who lives next to Brown at 11444 Antelope Road. In 2018 he lost a district court cases against Brown regarding her use of her property and noise. “Eight (landowners) purchased (property) when it was rural residential, she moves in and decides to change the whole scope of the road.”
“I’m here representing Scanga Meat Company,” said Terry Scanga. “I’ve lived here all my life since 1952. There were four residences there then. My dad donated the land for CR 156 to get to the Vance property. It’s a shame what is going on here – I’m ashamed this is happening in this county. My dad supported Pinon Hills – these folks who all live there, and I want to see this county do the right thing…remove that injunction and help her figure out how to do this the right way. That’s all I ask you.”
“Pull yourself back from a long chain of events full of untruths,” said Laurie Lowe. “I have known four riding stables here, they all board from 10 to 30 horses, some do clinics, they ride on and off their property. They come and go with their horses in peace. This is rural Chaffee County. Like Alison, I have an arena and stables, even though friends have come to ride with me, I am not an outfitter. She is nowhere near as big as the barns around the county which are used by right….none of the stables and barns in the county have these things – so once you require this of her, then what?”
“The road up there is an issue. It’s been in terrible condition before Alison Brown ever bought up there,” said Ben Scanga. “With my experience with land use, I am wondering how a lot restriction was lifted before that road was built to standards. It needs to be addressed no matter what decision you make tonight. But I ask you – this county promotes recreation – it’s our lifeblood right now and this [riding and foxhunting] is another form of recreation. Are we saying there are only certain types of recreation that we agreed with and if you don’t, you can’t come here?”
Commissioners adjourned to executive session to discuss their options and upon their return indicated they did not believe the county had the authority to change what the District 11 Court had done.
“I don’t find the term fox hunting to be self-evident if you’re not really hunting,” said Felt. “This is a real mess – and a key element is this definition of outfitting.”
“This is the stance the county has taken – we are allowed to set our own code,” said Tom. “ This is what we sought – what the [District Court’s] injunction stated is what we must have sought.”
“For me, we don’t have the authority to lift the injunction,” said Commissioner Keith Baker. “Not until we get the new definition of ‘outfitting facility’ in place and we put parameters on it, so it is well-defined … Clearly specifying things like the number of people, frequency, a commercial nature. Only the court an make a determination about the road [rights], and only the court can lift the injunction.”
Baker made the motion to deny the appeal, seconded by Commissioner Rusty Granzella and it unanimously passed. Baker said his motion was contingent upon moving forward to address the outfitter definition. “The quickest way to do this is work on it ourselves and send it to the planning commission.”
It was 9:30 p.m. before commissioners began to address the kennel application. Commissioners made the decision to hear brief initial comments from the applicant and to take public comment from anyone in attendance who wanted to speak. But they determined they would not make any decision about the kennel application that evening. Public comments from that session will be covered in a follow-up article.
Editor’s disclosure: Alison Brown is an investor in Ark Valley Voice.