County officials fight with landowners to clear waste
Just outside De Beque sits a pile of tires 15,000 to 30,000 strong, according to Mesa County officials.
Just outside Fruita sit bundles of tires that neighbors estimate number in the thousands.
Both of these radial strongholds have, to date, been impenetrable by Mesa County.
The tires in De Beque, scattered across 18 acres, were intended to be building blocks for “earthship agricultural buildings,” according to Stan Eisenach, the property owner.
Eisenach’s comments are recorded in a summary judgment Mesa County won against him in July before Chief District Judge David Bottger. But Eisenach filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals. That appeal is pending, said Lyle Dechant, Mesa County attorney.
To get to this point has taken 13 years, according to court records.
A cease-and-desist order was issued in June 1996 for use of the property as a junkyard. In 1998, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter to Eisenach regarding the disposal of tires on his land.
And in 2007, the Health Department sent Eisenach another letter telling him he was in violation of state law.
In her affidavit to the court, Donna Ross, director of Mesa County Code Enforcement, said she has “conducted numerous site visits to the property at 4700 U.S. Highway 6&24” from 1997 to 2008.
She estimated at least 15,000 tires are on the site and maybe as many as 30,000.
In his ruling, Bottger found that Eisenach indeed was operating a solid-waste disposal site without proper permits.
“Pursuant to the code, no more than 50 tires may be kept on property in a rural zone district,” Bottger wrote. “Used waste tires may only be legally disposed of in a county-designated landfill or solid waste disposal facility.”
It costs $2 for each tire disposed of at the landfill.
In its lawsuit against Eisenach, the county is seeking to have him either obtain a conditional-use permit and a certificate of designation so that he may legally operate a solid waste disposal facility or remove the tires. Eisenach is subject to civil fines that could be rung up at $10,000 a day, according to state law, for each day the violation continues.
If the county has to clean the mess, Eisenach could also be handed that bill.
In his defense, Eisenach showed the court he had pulled building permits to use the tires for his “earthship” buildings. But those building permits were pulled in 1996 and 1997. They have long since expired.
“Defendant’s focus on the building permit issue has been for more than a decade and still is nothing more than a diversion,” Bottger wrote.
Far to the west of Eisenach’s property, near Fruita, is a 54-acre site directly west of L 1/2 and 17 1/2 roads. The former property owner not only stockpiled tires on his property, but he also built a corral for cattle out of the tire bails.
“I can’t believe they allowed them in there in the first place,” said Dwight Fowler, who lives on L 1/2 Road, about 500 feet from the tire-built compound.
He said the former property owner had the tires brought in on a flatbed trailer three or four bails at a time.
“I thought something is going to happen, and nothing did,” he said. “It is still an eyesore.”
According to the Mesa County Assessor’s Web site, the property was obtained by Mary Lou Kennedy on a quitclaim deed in 2007. It is owned by Design/Engineering LLC, according to the assessor’s Web site. The Daily Sentinel was unable to make contact with the new owner.
Fowler said a man, who told him he was the owner, said he intended to clean up the property when he first purchased it, but when the economy crashed last year, those plans were put on hold.
Other neighbors have taken their complaints to the Lower Valley Fire Protection District. Dick Pippenger, fire marshal, said the Fire District has no regulations against having numerous tires on agricultural property. But the county does have codes, so Pippenger filed a complaint with Code Enforcement in August.
Ross said her department is in the initial stages of an investigation and has not yet done an initial site visit.