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Copper Gulch Residents Raise Trash Complaints

An example of unfinished construction in western Fremont County that leaves a blight on some mountain neighborhoods. Fremont County secured a court order five years ago to clean up this property. Even then the owner would not comply. When the property went to tax sale the county worked with the new owner to clean up the entire property.

Dressed in red shirts in a display of unity, residents of the Copper Gulch area southwest of Cañon City on Tuesday again voiced their concerns that they are upset with trash filled properties and the proliferation of marijuana grow sites throughout their area.   John Garrou charged that the county has done nothing in hopes that if the county ignores them long enough they will go away.   Garrou is particularly upset about properties that may have secured building permits, started construction, but walked away and abandoned the property.   Garrou said those properties are the responsibility of the county zoning and building departments.

Rich Bandlow said he and his neighbors are upset everyday that they drive past the trash filled properties that aren’t addressed and wonder how they came to be living up there.   Bandlow said that when the “dopers’ moved in two years ago the problems got worse with the marijuana grow sites.  Bandlow said the residents are simply asking for the county to work with them to resolve the problems.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the problems are not unique to the Copper Gulch area.   He said the county’s code enforcement officers deal with similar problems around Penrose, Florence, and Cañon City adding that neighboring counties are dealing with the same issues.   Norden said he has to look at the problem from a budgetary standpoint.  He said given the budget cuts the county made during the recession he would have a problem hiring more code enforcement officers and another attorney to pursue all these matters in court when roads across the county continue to be substandard.   Norden said there has to be a median somewhere between enforcement, spending, and getting people to take pride in their own property.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she agrees that the properties need to be cleaned up.   Bell said however that she believes in personal property rights and the county must follow due process of law in forcing property owners to comply and clean up their properties.   Bell and Norden said the county will continue to meet with staff to monitor progress on cleaning up problem sites across the county.

The commissioners on Tuesday also voted to approve a zone change for MountainDale Campground along Barrett Road located just south of the Fremont-El Paso County line.   Brian Emry was seeking the zone change from Ag Forestry to Travel Trailer Park and Campground zone in order to pursue expansion of the MountainDale Campground.     A number of neighbors along Barrett Road protested the zone change citing concerns about the threat of wildfire from campfires, drainage issues, increased traffic, depressed property values, and trespassing on private property by campers.    Several said the trespass problems already exist and will only get worse.

Emry said he has worked to resolve specific cases of trespass that came to his attention and has an employee who is vigilant about checking on campfires late at night to make sure campfires have been extinguished.   Emry also said he has an approved fire plan and 30,000 gallons of water storage, in addition to water on trucks and trailers.

In approving the zone change the Board of Commissioners noted that the MountainDale Campground has existed along Barrett Road since 1943 long before many of the residents built homes on neighboring property.   Chairman Norden said for that reason he believes the neighbors' concerns about lower property values are unfounded.

In other business at Tuesday’s regular board meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation declaring March 10th as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day;
  • Approved a resolution terminating a conditional use permit for the AZCO gravel pit which earlier ceased operations;
  • Approved a waiver for an annexation impact report for property owned by Sam and Dawn Smith who want to annex their property into the City of Cañon City.