John Scarffe, Wondervu. The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners took their monthly Coffee with the Commissioners to the Wondervu Cafe on Tuesday evening, July 25, 2017. About ten Gilpin County residents grabbed a beverage and some nachos for the visit with Board Chair Gail Watson and Commissioner Linda Isenhart. Commissioner Ron Engels was not able to attend.
Isenhart opened the conversation discussing issues in the Wheeler Subdivision, where a fellow has been operating a drone in the neighborhood. The Commissioners discussed the unique situation at their July 13 meeting.
The Commissioners have discovered that a lot of regulations are not in place for drone operations, Isenhart said. They have been in touch with Sheriff Bruce Hartman and will be meeting with the man who operates the drone. The drone really does bother the neighborhood flying above their homes.
Wheeler Subdivision Resident Deb Hamel said the man can see the entire subdivision. It’s very disconcerting, and it makes a loud noise. Gilpin County resident Jane Wyss said she saw it over her house one time. It was loud.
The Federal Aviation Administration has regulations for flying drones in commercial air space, over wildfires or above people on the ground working fires, but for hobbyists not many regulations are in place, except to be aware of neighbors and privacy, Isenhart said.
Roland Hamel said drones are fine if you have 20 or 30 acres of land and want to check out your cattle.
The primary rule for flying a recreational drone is you should never let it leave your sight.
The man flies the drone on Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. He just laughed at a letter he received from Isenhart, Roland said. It’s a privacy and noise issue, and it doesn’t belong in a small subdivision.
Watson said this is what happens with technology. It takes a while for laws to catch up with it. Roland said: He’s going to create a drone hunting season, and people are going to start shooting at it. It’s an invasion of your privacy. We have two-and-a-half acres, and everywhere there is sunshine, but you can’t sit there because he’s flying over it.”
Rich Deubel on Highway 72 asked, “What if you have a hot tub in your back yard?” Watson said it’s a question for the district attorney as to whether his office can prosecute. Gilpin County doesn’t have a noise ordinance but the state does.
The shooting issue is getting worse, Watson said. It’s not the Wild West anymore. Two weeks ago, new people moved into Rollinsville and were shooting big gauge guns. The Sheriff contacted them, and they said it was a one-time event for them, but it started a conversation they will have with district attorney on August 8.
“Is there anything we can do to control this?” Watson asked. We have an ordinance that says no shooting in subdivisions, but it doesn’t undermine second amendment rights. Will the DA prosecute? We all live close to someone who shoots. What’s reasonable? Can they shoot for half an hour, or all day?
They Wondervu Café employee waiting on the group said shooters are up there in the National Forest and there are so many trails. “They are shooting up the trees, and it scares me. We come around the loop, and I think we’re going to get killed. Just give them a place to shoot.”
Watson said: “We are working on that. We need a shooting range. The U.S. Forest Service is working on that.” They will tie shooting-area closures to having a range, but the problem is where to put one.
“You don’t want one by your house or mine. We are hoping to find an old mine where land is already destroyed,” Watson said. “We put up a sign and people shot it full.”
Jane Wyss brought up the issue with dogs. People treat them like cattle and turn them out all day. “I called them and said I think I can handle this for six hours, but I’m not sure.” Watson said she hates for this to be the only solution, but she should call the sheriff.
Wyss said they are packed in there, but the neighbors who have the dogs are urban people and think they can do anything in the woods. They are going to try the bark collars. Watson said, “These are issues we’re hammering out right now.”
Anne Wyss said: “My issues are the motorcycles. They come down the hill and they are loud. Watson said the Sheriff put on an extra detail to let them know that Gilpin County is not the free for all it used to be.
Anne said the next issue is cell service. “We have none.” Elenore Andersen said that they have put up cell towers, but they haven’t connected them. They’ve got the base around it but never connected it up.
Watson said a tower went up three years ago. A lot of neighbors called and complained about it. We’re all complaining about our cell phones, but we don’t want a tower near us.
Deubel said they could put a tower on his property. Roland said he discovered Mountain Broadband on Mt. Thorodin and it’s reasonable. A router can be plugged in, and you only have to pay taxes on calling.
Linda Lehrer said she called about service, and they asked if they could put up a repeater on her land, and she said yes. She gets good service now.
Watson said Gilpin County is partnering with Clear Creek County on a broadband grant and will get a final proposal from them. It’s all based on return on investment for the companies, but there are things the County can do. The County is allowed to engage at some level in broadband service.
“We can look for grants to put up repeaters or put up miles of fiber on poles. We’re paying attention to all that. It’s such a slow process. “It’s so proprietary that it’s hard to get information, but we’re getting there,” Watson said.
Isenhart announced that the Board has hired a new county manager from Walsenburg. “We might be able to fold her in on this stuff too. We’ve been able to pick up some of the day to day stuff. She has a lot of experience and has been all over Colorado.”
Julie Shaw said, “I think you guys are doing a great job,” and the group applauded.
(Originally published in the August 10, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)