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County commissioners decline legal action over cabin

Garfield County commissioners are hoping a neighborhood dispute over a cabin south of Rulison that may be illegally occupied will shake itself out without the county having to take legal action.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday against taking property owners Danny and Annie Burchfield to court over alleged zoning and building code violations.

Neighbors have had ongoing concerns about a range of activities on the Burchfield property, located on Garfield County Road 301.



Most of the concerns revolve around an unimproved cabin, a recreational vehicle and other temporary structures that neighbors claim have had long-term residents living in them.

The concerns were addressed in a 2009 court-approved agreement between the county and the Burchfields. The county commissioners at the time chose not to file a lawsuit, in favor of a mediated settlement.



“It depends on your definition of occupancy, but all of us in that area believe the cabin has been occupied consistently,” said one of the Burchfield’s neighbors, Marion Wells, at the Monday commissioners’ meeting.

Recently, she said she observed lights in the cabin after dark and smoke coming out of the chimney.

“There’s a reasonableness here that seems to be lacking,” Wells said.

According to Garfield County zoning enforcement officer Gale Carmoney, as recently as Nov. 29 he and another county official visited the site and the cabin appeared to be occupied.

At an Oct. 10 BOCC meeting, Burchfield’s attorney, Walt Brown, indicated that his clients were close to moving into a new house that is being built on the property.

He said Monday that, in the meantime, they have been staying in the RV, and occasionally use the cabin when the weather allows. The family is literally days away from receiving a final certificate of occupancy to move into the new house.

County Commissioner Mike Samson wanted to pursue legal action to settle the building and zoning violation. But Commissioners John Martin and Tom Jankovsky were inclined to wait, saying the court stipulation wasn’t clear as to whether the cabin could be occupied temporarily.

“I’m still looking for a foundation that something is in violation,” Martin said. “We can’t resolve an issue between neighbors.”

Martin did express concerns about a temporary medical marijuana growing operation on the property last summer, which Danny Burchfield admitted to having. That would be in violation of the county’s moratorium on medical marijuana facilities, which went into effect last year, Martin warned.

Any current zoning or building violations would come up in the building inspection for the new house, he said.

In other land-use matters at the Monday meeting, commissioners:

• Heard an update from the Garfield Legacy Project organizers on their efforts to establish a voluntary open space and agriculture land conservation program in the county. The group recently held a series of workshops in the county to gather comments. Commissioners reiterated that they would like to see any local program modeled after one in Routt County, which focuses on keeping agricultural lands in operation, rather than open space purchases for recreation purposes.

• Agreed to require the LaFarge Corporation, developers of the North Bank gravel pit near Rifle, to reapply with the county for a major development review. The operation has not been able to meet timing requirements for developing the site included in the original approvals.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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