County code violator faces deadline

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The deadline for Routt County landowner L.A. "Butch" Dougherty to bring his property into compliance with county rules is fast approaching, but Dougherty has not notified the county that anything has been done.

After the Jan. 31 deadline passes, the Routt County Board of Commissioners will look at the issue and determine its next steps. The preferred outcome in such cases is that the landowner suggests a timetable to bring the issue into compliance and takes care of the problem, Routt County Planner John Eastman said.

"If they fail to do so, option two is that we take them to court and force compliance," he said.

There are several major issues with Dougherty's 9.5-acre site on U.S. Highway 40 just outside the city's southeast limits, Eastman said. Dougherty never obtained final permits for uses on the land, so the landscaping business that has been leasing part of the property technically should not be there; fill has been put in the floodplain and floodway of the Yampa River, which could push flood water onto other properties during a flood; and there is outdoor storage of old equipment.

The original deadline for compliance was Jan. 20, but the county extended that on Dougherty's request.

Since 1996, the county has made repeated attempts to get the land into compliance with local rules, Eastman said.

"We bent over backwards to the point that we were chastised by our own Planning Commission for failing to pursue enforcement earlier," Eastman said.

Meanwhile, the landscaping business leasing the land -- Mountain West Environments -- submitted a proposed schedule for compliance, in which the business would be moved off the site and operated elsewhere. Eastman said he could not give details about the proposed schedule, and John Sherrill, president and general manager for Mountain West Environments, said he had no comment at this point.

Dougherty referred all comments to his attorney, Ralph Cantafio, who was unable to comment Friday.

In mid-November, Routt County commissioners denied Dougherty's request to let Mountain West Environments expand and asked that all activity on the land stop within 30 days. Just after the meeting, planning staff learned that Dougherty had withdrawn the application through a fax that had not been found earlier.

The county has encouraged Dougherty to annex the land into the city of Steamboat Springs, as recommended by the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

As of Friday, no new information had been submitted. After Jan. 31, the county could look at the site to see whether any work has been done, then could follow up, potentially with legal action.

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