| Lynn Hirshman • Gilpin County |
The story began in late 2010 with the following story in the Mountain-Ear.
Many Gilpin residents remember the attempts in the last decade by Dirk Larsen to dredge and create a gravel mining operation in South Boulder Creek and on his land on both sides of the creek along South Beaver and Pactolus roads. He also tried to establish a private fishing club along that stretch of river. Ultimately, in 2005, he conveyed it as a Conservation Easement to Gilpin County.
Conservation Easements have many restrictions, all to the benefit of keeping the land involved in the most natural state possible. The Easement agreed to by Larsen and the County included recognition that “the property provides relatively natural fish, wildlife, plants and their ecosystems including significant habitat for elk, for which the property is a corridor, black bear, bobcat, beaver and deer.”
While requiring that the land either be retained in its natural state, or restored to its natural state, the Easement permits “the operation of a private fishing facility….a lodge not to exceed 5,000 square feet of floor area, a parking area to serve the lodge….an access road and water and power lines to serve the lodge.” It also limits outbuildings to 2,000 square feet…. Another requirement is that existing fencing must be maintained and repaired or replaced. New fences are permitted “provided that said fences shall not unduly restrict or exclude wildlife use of the Property.”
At that time, some residents of the nearby South Beaver Creek Road neighborhood voiced concerns about this new development [Lincoln Hills Fishing Club] focused on a few areas of contention. One has to do with the size of the lodge and the number of guests it would hold. Another concern focused on the Planning Commission’s approval of the Community Development staff recommendation regarding traffic to Lodge events. County staff assumed “no significant traffic impacts” in the South Beaver Creek area.
In a document presented to the Planning Commission, Community Development Director Tony Petersen said that a traffic study was not necessary because estimates of Boulder County traffic, which he seemed to think were reasonable, were that average residents made five trips per day, so that the proposed 150 cars per day would not be noticeable. One resident, Joe Chizmas, pointed out that he didn’t know any South Beaver residents who made an average of five trips a day from home.
Petersen did include a recommendation to the County Commissioners that a road and bridge study be done to ensure that there wasn’t a negative traffic impact. The Commissioners decided it wasn’t necessary.
There were other concerns at the time, mostly focused on the extensive earth moving that was taking place at the lodge site, and on the fences that obstruct an elk migration corridor. Another major complaint by Chizmas was that local people who have fished the area for years, had been told by the developers that “they can fish here if they join the club and pay the fee,” which, he stated, was $600 per day.
The issue now
This is the major concern of Steven Roszell of Rollinsville, who has watched the South Boulder Creek banks controlled by the Lincoln Hills Fishing Club extend from the Pactolus area west to Highway 119 in Rollinsville.
Roszell made a plea to Gilpin County at the Commissioners’ meeting on Aug. 21. Armed with documents, maps and photographs, he showed how this “small” development near Pactolus had become part of a much larger organization, and had spread along South Boulder Creek to Rollinsville, where the grounds were being patrolled by private security guards while sporting “No Trespassing” signs claiming the property was patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department.
According to Roszell, Petersen had told him that the club had not violated any County ordinances or regulations. Roszell begged the Board, “After many years of asking the County to clarify property boundaries and to enforce the zoning regulations, our County representatives have chosen to do nothing.” Barring action from the County, he stated, his intention was to sue.
The three sitting Commissioners made no comment at that time. Roszell has heard nothing from them since. He formally notified the Commissioners of his intent to sue the County in a letter dated Aug. 20, published in The Mountain-Ear on Aug. 30.
Roszell’s argument against the Fishing Club has to do with their inappropriate, if not illegal, use of public, Colorado Department of Transportation and railroad land along the creek. Part of his argument has to do with the fact that “the properties they are charging to fish are zoned or owned by Gilpin County, CDOT, Residential, Vacant, National Forest, Non-Prod. Pat. Land and even leased residential land from some of our Neighbors.”
While fishing is a Use by Right, Roszell has noted in his documentation the advertising of the fishing club, which offers their “Flyfisher Guide Service” for non-members. There is no provision in the Gilpin County Zoning Regulations for any use of NAICS Code 713990, Fishing Guide Services. It is not a Use by Right nor by a Special Use Review (SUR) under any Gilpin County Zoning.
Further, the land along the creek at Rollinsville was granted “for the benefit of the public” for “perpetual use” by the Perigo Mines Company in 1931. If that is the case, Roszell argues, the Fishing Club has no right to fence off access to the creek at Rollinsville, threatening to charge “trespassers” with prosecution via the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Department. When asked about this issue, a Sheriff’s Office representative stated that the club’s fences were not patrolled by their deputies, but declined to take any action to remove the signs that stated otherwise.
Roszell is not the only landowner in the area affected by the club’s actions. At least one other landowner has complained to the County about having long-held fishing rights in the Pactolus Area ignored or denied by Lincoln Hills. Asked about their possible litigation, their attorneys declined to comment at this time.
In attempting to reach a resolution, Roszell found Petersen particularly unhelpful. In June, Roszell wrote to him: “I don’t know if you have been to our neck of the woods in awhile? Lincoln Hills has put up fence and placed a portable toilet on land they do not own, rent or control. In addition the land they leased is Residential and they are using it for Commercial proposes. With their Guard constantly patrolling land they don’t own in front of my house they are invading my rights for Quiet Enjoyment of my property.
“If you have a copy of the survey, agreements, etc. please forward.”
Petersen’s response was essentially irrelevant: “I saw a 2-strand wire fence approximately 3-feet tall and I saw one portable toilet. But, I saw no violations of the Gilpin County zoning or building codes. These are the only codes this department has authority to enforce. Section 2.2 of the zoning code lists fishing as a use-by-right on RR lands. The wire fence is less than 6-feet tall and therefore exempt from building permit requirements.
“The portable toilet is not addressed in either code. You may want to contact the Public Health Department … as they have jurisdiction of all sanitation issues.”
Petersen has since made it clear that he believes that Roszell has no case against the County.
On the other hand, CDOT was more forthcoming, though not particularly helpful. Ian Broussard, real estate specialist, Right of Way Services, wrote to Roszell on Sept. 13, “I just wanted to say thank you for the excellent job you did exposing the fishing club’s misuse of CDOT ROW. I have elevated your request to the manager of that location. I found the guard’s explanation of where you could fish (under the bridge) pretty funny. Everyone I have discussed this with had the same reaction I did; a good laugh.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get to benefit from your efforts beyond exposing their trespass.”
With CDOT on his side, will Roszell’s case against the County become stronger? Will this David win his battle against the Lincoln Hills Goliath? Will other Gilpin residents denied fishing rights come forward? Will those who have granted leases to Lincoln Hills change their minds? Watch this space to find out.