County allows Collbran ranch to run events facility

A Collbran property owner who has been illegally hosting weddings and other commercial events for years received the go-ahead Tuesday to begin holding those kinds of activities legitimately, despite concerns from neighbors and Mesa County commissioners’ own misgivings.

Commissioners unanimously approved issuing a conditional-use permit to Five Winds Ranch owner Colby Olford, enabling him to hold up to 20 events each year between April and October at his 29-acre property at 17496 Kimball Creek Road.

The board attached a list of 21 conditions Olford must meet, most of them designed to limit impacts on surrounding property owners.

Prior to voting, commissioners Rose Pugliese and Scott McInnis said they felt the permit and conditions reflected an effort to respect Olford’s private property rights while protecting the interests of his neighbors.

“This is a good solution to the situation,” McInnis said.

Minutes earlier, though, McInnis had tough words for Olford, claiming his history of erecting structures and hosting for-profit events without first obtaining county permits shows he hasn’t operated in “good faith.”

“I’m trying to find any boundary that’s been complied with. I can’t find it,” McInnis said.

Neighbors testified before commissioners that Olford has been running a business on the ranch in violation of the county’s land-development code since 2013. County code-enforcement officers fielded seven complaints from citizens in 2015 about noise and the fact that the ranch was hosting weddings and other events without permits, while the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office received three calls complaining about noise the same year. Several structures on the property were built without building permits.

The county issued two requests for compliance and a notice of violation to cease events in 2015, all of which code-enforcement officers said Olford ignored. That prompted the Mesa County Attorney’s Office last year to send a letter to Olford warning him they would take legal action against him if he continued to host events on the property.

Olford pleaded ignorance with commissioners during Tuesday’s hearing, which lasted roughly two hours.

“When I started this thing, I had no idea you had to have a permit to hold these events on your own property. I was naive, that’s for sure,” he said.

He said the ranch provides jobs for his daughter and him and benefits Collbran and the surrounding area economically by filling motel rooms with guests and employing caterers and DJ companies. The town of Collbran and the Collbran Economic Development Committee wrote letters in support of granting the ranch a permit.

Neighbors, though, lodged objections to noise and potential impacts on property values and claimed the venue runs counter to the reasons they chose to live in the rural area north of Collbran.

Michelle Blanck said she and her husband initially believed weddings and other events adjacent to their house could work, but that they’ve since experienced the drawbacks.

“Who wants to buy a property next to endless summer parties?” she said.

Another neighbor, Jeff Cumpston, said the parties and private events started small but grew bigger and louder over time. He said he tried to work with Olford to tamp down the noise, but it was to no avail.

“He has no regard for the neighbors,” Cumpston said about Olford.

The commissioners’ decision comes about a month after the county Planning Commission voted 4-3 in favor of the permit.


COMMENTS

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So, let’s see if I have this straight: A Collbran land owner violates the law on multiple counts, irritates his neighbors, gets warned by the county attorney to stop his legal violations, ignores all of the warnings and then pleads ignorance of the law. The county then recognizes at a public meeting that the land owner knowingly and purposely failed to respect the law and then ...  grants him official permission to keep violating the law?

Conclusion: It pays to violate the law in Mesa County. That’s probably as along as you are someone the commissioners like. If you’re someone they don’t like, this may not work.

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