Legal guns drawn over zoning for hall for American Legion

by Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

Bob Mayo’s fight with Garfield County over its building codes has landed in Garfield District Court, and he predicts the battle could continue for three to four years.

“Attorneys have told me I have a case, but I will have to appeal it beyond the district court,” Mayo said.

At issue is the American Legion meeting hall Mayo constructed near New Castle in 2002 without a county building permit.

Mayo claimed he didn’t need a building permit for the 2,400-square-foot structure, and in a motion filed in Garfield County District Court on Sept. 15, said the county building codes are “vague, unenforceable, subject to conditions and terms by whim, and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Garfield County took Mayo and his wife, Naomi, to court on Aug. 21, when it filed a temporary restraining order, claiming the building’s continued use by the American Legion or for any other human activity represents “irreparable injury to the public because it has been constructed without permits from the County and without following the Uniform Building Code.”

Court documents say the county notified Mayo of the violation on three occasions this year, and the Board of County Commissioners discussed the issues with him on May 5.

The county commissioners gave Mayo a June 13 deadline to have the building inspected, and to apply for a special use permit to allow a meeting hall in that zone district.

Mayo ignored the county’s letters and phone calls, and continued to use the building without obtaining building permits required by state and county law, said assistant Garfield County attorney Catalina Cruz in her motion for a temporary restraining order.

In his Sept. 15 motion, Mayo said he has placed the building in “non-use.” Mayo previously said he will donate the building to American Legion Post 164 when it proves it can maintain the building and pay taxes on it, and the special use permit and inspection issues will fall to the American Legion after that.

Mayo, 72, was an Aspen contractor for many years until he and Naomi moved to their 66-ranch north of New Castle in 1978.

County building inspector Steve Hackett stated in court documents that Mayo told him he didn’t need a building permit because the structure was for agricultural use, and such buildings are exempt from building codes.

“On March 5, 2003, I observed a sign at the entrance to the apparently completed building identifying the structure as an `American Legion meeting place,'” Hackett said in his court affidavit.

Mayo countered in his motion, “Occasional use of the building for purposes other than agricultural poses no threat to the health and welfare of the general public, and is not in violation of any responsibility the County Board may have in reference to such use.”

Mayo said he hasn’t hired an attorney, but has applied for free representation from the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

He said it would be easier not to fight the county in court.

“But that’s not the way I was raised,” Mayo said. “I’m sick and tired of me moving over for them. They have to move over for me.”

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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