Deb Schaffer ejects a spent shell casing from her shotgun while taking aim at another skeet on the Routt County Rifle Club's range west of Steamboat Springs on April 28, 2007. Rifle Club filed a lawsuit against Steamboat 700 because of a disputed property line.

File photo

Deb Schaffer ejects a spent shell casing from her shotgun while taking aim at another skeet on the Routt County Rifle Club's range west of Steamboat Springs on April 28, 2007. Rifle Club filed a lawsuit against Steamboat 700 because of a disputed property line.

Lawsuit filed against 700

Rifle Club uses adverse possession in fence-line dispute

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— The Routt County Rifle Club has filed suit in Routt County District Court to assert its ownership of nearly five acres of disputed land along its boundary with the proposed Steamboat 700 development.

Both parties claim to own the land, located inside the Rifle Club's fence line along its eastern and northern boundaries with Steamboat 700. The dispute may come down to Colorado's adverse possession statute, which provides that when one party occupies and puts to use a portion of another party's land throughout many years, with the second party "acknowledging and acquiescing" to the situation, the first party may claim ownership of the land.

The fence hasn't stood for the past year, and both parties agree Steve Brown, who sold more than 500 acres to Steamboat 700 in March 2007, took it down about two weeks before the sale was consummated.

"Steve Brown asserted his claim (to the land)," Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said. "He's the one who took the fence down. I really have nothing to do with it."

"We put fence posts back up and put up signs letting people know it was our safety zone," longtime Rifle Club member Kent Holt said.

The Rifle Club has operated a firing range for about 60 years on a bowl-shaped parcel off U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat 700 plans to build more than 2,000 homes on 700 acres it acquired in 2007, including the 540-acre Brown parcel, for which it paid $24.6 million.

Based on that price, the disputed land could be worth a comparable $45,000 per acre.

Mike Holloran, attorney for the Rifle Club, said the discrepancy resulting in the dispute is about 56 feet at either end of the fence line's eastern run. Along the northern boundary the discrepancy ranges from about 65 feet on one end to 119 feet on the other end.

Holloran said adverse possession cases are relatively commonplace in Routt County and frequently arise from a casual approach taken to establishing fence lines in other eras.

The application of the law, he said, could be described as a reverse statute of limitations. If the original property owner doesn't take action within 18 years to re-establish ownership, time runs out.

In his suit, technically a quiet title complaint, Holloran wrote:

"Plaintiff (the Rifle Club) is in possession of the property. The property was bordered by a fence ... which has been in existence for at least 60 years. Such fence was removed, without the authorization, consent or approval of plaintiff in the spring of 2007."

In a response filed with the court, attorney Bob Weiss, representing Steamboat 700, asserts that his clients are the owners of the disputed property and asks the court to issue a decree, "holding that the plaintiffs ... have no interest or claim of any kind whatsoever in the property and forever barring and enjoining plaintiff ... from asserting any claims or title to the property."

Safety concerns

Rifle Club members acknowledged to the Steamboat Pilot & Today in January that for safety reasons, and with the prospect of nearby residential development on Steamboat 700, the time to find a new home for the Rifle Club has arrived. The shooting range is widely used by sports shooters, hunters sighting in their rifles and a variety of law enforcement agencies. The nearest existing alternatives are in Hayden and Yampa.

Both Holt and Mulcahy said they did not desire a lawsuit.

"We didn't want to get into this, but we don't want to lose that land and, all of a sudden, safety becomes the issue," Holt said. "This isn't a world-shaking matter, but we're pretty much forced into doing it."

Mulcahy said he thought amicable conversations about the fence line issue were under way but then was served with the lawsuit.

"It's only about six acres and most of it is designated as open space in our plan. It's not a huge issue. But they served notice without any contact," Mulcahy said. "Obviously, I had to serve them back."

Comments

AmebaTost 6 years, 8 months ago

RCRC should stay put! Mulecaky should move on!

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bloggyblog 6 years, 8 months ago

50 paces at sundown should remedy that dispute! blogs money's on the rifle club.

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id04sp 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't think she's ejecting anything. The shotgun appears to be an autoloader. It's ejecting the shell casings all by itself.

Shooting skeet with an autoloader is like fishing for trout at Pearl Lake with earthworms for bait. Fun, maybe, but not very skillful. Hitting 25 out of 25 with a pump gun requires much more skill.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 8 months ago

Here's a scenario for you! If the range moves, who would really benefit? Would Mark at the junk yard because he would be able to sell his land to a developer who would build a grocery store mini mall for the west end? Because of flag pole annexation laws, the city would! Would the 700 because of and increase in property values from friendlier developments? I think "all" listed would benefit! The range members would loose. I know that the range is state land however; I heard a state land swap might be in the future. I like it right where it is, personally! I only live a mile away from as it is! The future of the range may not be so secure in years to come.

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aristocat 6 years, 8 months ago

Since OC may loose their police dept. maybe the rifle club could move to OC ..If OC no longer has a police dept. they could rent the rifle range out to help pay Wall to patrol OC full time

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denouement_yet 6 years, 8 months ago

My name is John Rogan. I am the Secretary-Treasurer of the Routt County Rifle Club. I'd like to clarify a couple of points re. the above article.

On May 16th of last year, three RCRC board members (myself included) met with Mr.'s Mulcahy, Weiss and Patton (700's private planner, I believe). At that meeting, the club stated its position: that the fence had been extant since the mid-1950's and was always assumed by club officers and members, as far back as we could find, to be the property line; that Mr. Brown had never communicated to the club that he did not believe the fence to be the property line; that the acreage constituted an important part of the safety buffer behind our ranges.

Mr.'s Mulcahy and Weiss responded that there were no immediate plans for the slices of land; that for the time being they could continue to be a buffer but that they would concede nothing legally. Mr. Mulcahy said that he would like to make the fence issue moot by purchasing the club site. We invited him to make an offer on the club acreage. We did not receive one.

Two weeks after that meeting, Mr. Mulcahy called the president of the club. He invited him to look at a parcel west of Steamboat that 700 LLC might purchase and trade to the club in return for its present site. The club president, myself and another member accompanied Mr. Mulcahy to that parcel. It turned out that we were aware of the parcel and that it was unsuitable for our use. Again, Mr. Mulcahy expressed an interest in acquiring the club real estate. Again, we invited him to make an offer. And again, none came.

On June 18th, 2007, in a letter to the club's attorney from attorney Weiss, 700 LLC clearly stated their position that "any claim of the Rifle Club to the property located between the fence posts and the record boundary line is unfounded".

We are all acutely aware that the west of Steamboat has changed dramatically since several local WW II returnees started shooting their military rifles on our site in the mid 40's. Our membership has trebled in the last 10 years to over 400 families. While some members would like to see the club remain on its historic site forever, just as many of us realize that we need to look to the future and that for the club to continue to function and grow we perhaps need to look to a new site-both reasonably close to Steamboat and rationally priced-while we still have an opportunity to find one.

Since June of last year, the club has been approached by two prospective development groups/purchasers-we continue to have dialogs with these people. In order to move forward in the years immediately ahead, the club needs to resolve this issue-thus the quiet title action you read about. Thanks.

An invite to id04sp: you're correct, Deb is shooting a semi-auto 20 gauge; if 25 out of 25 with that gun is 'not very skillful', we'd love to watch you do it-heck, we'll even front you a box of shells and pick up the cost of the round!

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id04sp 6 years, 8 months ago

It's been a few years since I did it (back when I had 20:10 vision), but I used to regularly go 25 of 25 with a 12 gauge pump, 30 inch barrel, full choke. It was great for shooting doves as long as you didn't let them get too close . . .

Maybe using a 12 gauge was an unfair advantage . . . but I was usually shooting against other men firing 12 gauge semi-autos. Besides, it only takes 2/10 of a second to operate the pump. That gave me more time to concentrate on the second target before firing. I think the extra time to track the target improves your aim.

I also have a college letter with crossed rifles on it, a few trophies (high score, high average) and missed firing expert with a loose old .45 by one point on my first attempt to qualify in the Navy as a midshipman. Since "Marksman" equalled "qualified" they didn't let me try it again. That would have been a waste of money. Oh, well, SEAL would have been my second choice, and I got my first choice (pilot training), so they were right, it would have been a waste of money . . .

I've got a friend who was a sniper in the Army. He recently took a deer back east in Georgia by shooting it through the head from 200 yards when it looked up from grazing. He didn't want to spoil the meat. He's the son of a Lakota Sioux from Oklahoma, and they still believe in the harvest instead of the hunt.

I have used your facility in the past (and paid the $5 or whatever it was for the privilege), but only for my 9mm pistol. I figure that's deadly enough to cover the distance from my bedroom to the back door, or vice versa .

Have you looked into getting a permit to use BLM land? Seems like a nice slope in the background to stop errant high-powered rounds would be a good idea. I was always intimidated about firing a 30-30 or even a .22 LR at your club because of Steamboat II over the hill there. I was never there when any of your members were around to talk about safety issues, and never took the time to check out a map to see exactly what was on the other side of that hill if a round got away from me. I guess I'm surprised that people haven't complained about your facility before since it's right there by the road for all to see.

In any case, I lived in California for several years out in the desert, and there were thousands of acres of BLM land available to go shooting without bothering anybody. Is it really necessary for you to own real estate?

Rep. Al White owns a bunch of "dry grazing land" north of Hayden. 200+ acres I believe. Maybe you could lease that from him since the fair market value of that land is not enough to make it worth putting into a conservation easement.

Oh, and no offense to Deb. I couldn't tell it was a 20 from the photo. She's TINY, isn't she?

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 8 months ago

John, Thanks for the extended info you provided. Like everything, all good things must change or come to an end. I have enjoyed the range for 25 years with my family. If there is a relocation, I hope it will be closer to Steamboat.

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