Our View: City Council makes decisions out of order

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The city of Steamboat Springs unnecessarily is forcing its own hand by negotiating the sale of its downtown police and fire station before having a plan in place for where to build a new public safety campus.

Now, a Steamboat Springs City Council that appeared determined to erase a previous council’s Iron Horse Inn mistake could be headed toward a costly error of its own.

The council’s decision last week to negotiate the sale of its building at 840 Yampa St. to Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP for $2.1 million essentially starts the clock on identifying a temporary or permanent home for police and fire services. We’re still scratching our heads as to the sense of urgency the council and top city officials seem to have for dumping a piece of valuable downtown real estate at a price below the city’s appraised value for it.

While we’ve been generally supportive of efforts to revitalize Yampa Street, and while we agree that Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP’s vision for the space would be an asset for downtown Steamboat as well as a potential spark to further public and private redevelopment efforts on Yampa, that doesn’t justify the backward order by which the council is addressing the issues.

The council did get something right during Tuesday’s meeting when its members unanimously agreed not to build a new police station on the site of the Iron Horse Inn. But logic broke down from there. Instead of trying to come to terms with where to locate a new police and fire station (or even how necessary such a move is at this time), the council first voted 5-2 to negotiate the sale of its Yampa Street property to Big Agnes/Honey Stinger/BAP. Only then did the council turn its attention to the future of the police and fire public safety campus.

The Stock Bridge Transit Center site is suddenly the preferred location of top city management, but we think building a combined police and fire station there could be a long-term mistake. The transit center was built with an eye to the future, and it provides valuable parking spaces as well as easy access to the Steamboat Springs Community Center, the Yampa River and the Yampa RiverCore Trail. The proposed public safety campus essentially would wipe out all existing parking at Stock Bridge, and the city’s plan to compensate by adding new parking behind the Depot Art Center presents its own set of issues. The long-term vision for the Stock Bridge site shouldn’t be thrown out simply because it’s the quickest and easiest option.

Fortunately, there’s still time for the council to get its priorities straight. At the top of that list should be vetting all reasonable locations for a new public safety campus. Hold off on selling the Yampa Street property until a solid plan is in place that has been presented to the community. Until that happens, it will be difficult to say this council is any wiser than the one that signed off on the Iron Horse Inn purchase.

Comments

Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Thank you editorial board.

Only one website post in the past 6 weeks supports this sale. This is that post: "What's not to get? The city council is moving forward with redevelopment of Yampa street. The first order of business is relocating safety services, but what to do with the building? Bap/Stinger, looking to expand/relocate, is a good fit with the outdoorsy/healthy/river trip vibe of Y street. Makes perfect sense."

Could someone please explain to me why the first order of business is relocating safety services?

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 6 months ago

Dear Editorial Board,

On the surface what you say is really obvious. I think it might be too obvious. I think the people on the board are pretty smart. Very few people know what was really said between the City Manager and the President of Honey Stinger (I don't). It was clear that President has entertained the idea of moving out of town because of the difficulty in doing their business out of Steamboat. I think the paper said there were 80 employees and looking to add another 15 more. Let's call it 100 for easy math at $30,000/job is $3 Million annually in salaries trickling through Steamboat. I would imagine that if Honey Stinger is paying $3 Million in salaries that they are generating $10-$15 Million in sales. I would expect that Steamboat is getting some tax money off of that as well and that other expenditures by Honey Stinger generate income for other businesses in Steamboat. On the other hand a 10 Million dollar loan paid back over 30 years is going to cost $500,000-$750,000 a year. My math is a little off, but not real far. My whole point is that this situation probably is not as clear as described above. Let's say for instance Honey Stinger up and moved in 6 months and it was discovered that the City Council knew about it in advance and didn't act fast enough. I imagine there would be scathing comments for the council in those circumstances. I realize that we can look at this in a another sense and say that Honey Stinger generates "X" dollars in taxes through employees, sales taxes, business taxes etc and determine if that amount is enough to generate the loan payment on a new building. I imagine that it is not. However, it is not necessary for the Honey Stinger decision to be able to cover the entire cost of the police/fire station because it looks like it was on the block to get done anyway. I consider the Honey Stinger deal to be a large discount for the cost of a fire station/police station. I have heard that the building is being sold to Honey Stinger for a big discount. I'm sure there is some math done on this situation to come up with the conclusion that the board has come up with. It is just not that simple, in my opinion.

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bill schurman 1 year, 6 months ago

For once the Pilot's Editorial Board makes sense.

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mark hartless 1 year, 6 months ago

Search and Rescue sold T-shirts a few years back that had a "slogan" printed on the back: "Routt County Search and Rescue-Intefering with Natural Selection since 1976" I think S&R stopped using that slogan.

Perhaps City Council should adopt that slogan.

Keep a business here by artificial means today (air subsdidies, real estate deals, whatever); then we get to farther subsidize it next year... and the next, and the next, until it's "too big to fail", at which point we just BUY it outright.

Is there not even a single drop of free market blood running through people's veins anymore? Or has favor-doing and market-tweaking become SOP?

I am mystified I when read the comments here. Everyone has an idea of what other's need to do with their business or what local government needs to do with, to, or for some other private business. What, exactly, are you folks smoking?
Does it ever occur to just leave things alone? "Don't Feed the Bears" applies to more than just bears, you know!!!

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 6 months ago

We are down and out with barely a pot to pee in and the tendency seems to be to double down and wheel and deal, great sport with the nonexistant money of others. Steve championed the AH debacle and now he wants a new dragon to slay. Most of our bright ideas involve grants but the only grant here will likely be the taxpoayers. Harrisburg Pa. went through a similar phase with the government trying one foolish venture after another in the quest of trying to do good. I could go on and on but I need to tend to my knitting.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 6 months ago

Curious as to how BAP would revitazie Yampa street.... it would concentrate in one spot all its employees..the result would overwhelm any parking that is there and create real gridlock during its operating hours...... they are a manufacturer ..how would that generate foot traffic??? What happens when Yampa Electric moves.. that building is some 50+ yrs old.........All Development projects go thru a series of public Planning meetings, Zoning Meetings, etc... seems like the city is jumping its own required steps....... While it makes fiscal sense for the Bap moves.... the knee jerk reaction from the city at the moment will have grave consequences.... WHo and what is really at play here??????

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walt jones 1 year, 6 months ago

I have hinted towards what I'm about to say before without saying much but Deb Hinsvark and Ann Small are the big pushers to get this who deal done. Why you ask? Their reasons are between them but now that Deb is Deputy City Manager she is in a win-win situation because if The deal with Big Agnes/Honey Stinger complete then she is seen as a savior financially for the city and if the deal falls through and the emergency services turns into a big mess she will say to City Council it was Jon Roberts who messed up the deal.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Robert, You make good points. But they do not address the editorial's central complaints: 1) the rush of this and 2) the decisions are being made out of order.

I believe sales tax applies only to the end sale of a tent, and not to Big Agnes' earlier selling of that tent to REI or LL Bean. Thus collected sales taxes would be no different than what Big Agnes already brings in on Oak Street. Same for the employees, most are already here. With all due respect to the Big Agnes president, his company's "possible departure" is what any good negotiator would say.

Some dollar discount to Big Agnes should find public support. But this goes way beyond some cash amount. The City is committing itself to jumping through some other far larger hoops here. Hoops they can barely see.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

I have begun attended a steering group discussion of one of those hoops - Funding new infrastructure of sidewalks, street lighting, buried utilities, public park spaces, etc, downtown. As an Oak Street owner potentially taxed for the good of Yampa Street, I have pointed out to this group and the City planning director that Oak Street has all the same infrastructure needs as Yampa Street. The current home of Big Agnes, on Oak, is testimony that Oak offers equal, if different, economic potential to that of Yampa Street.

A large piece of this hoop is County and School District blessing of a TIF district that would fund downtown upgrades. To my knowledge the City has yet to even contact the County about this multi-million dollar piece of their plan. The previous TIF at the base area came during the flush years. Very different to ask for one today.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Steve, I would suggest that the first order of business is not relocating public safety services because it is not yet proven they have to be relocated. It would appear that building is too small for both, but that does not require that both move. One or even both could stay.

The idea that an officer has a closet for an office could also create the question of why does someone whose primary job is to work outside even have an office? So many companies now have generic shared offices for sales people and others instead of dedicated offices. Instead of spending millions on a new building based upon a historical model of big central office buildings, they could be creating micro stations in busy areas which is the newer model.

Regardless, city staff spending a year on police and fire has failed to create any consensus on what is needed at what locations. The staff report mentions going too far west puts it too far from too many, but never even calculates the ideal location (or ideal area of possible locations) to let anyone get a feel for how far becomes too far. After a year of working on the issue, you might think they'd figured out what are the good locations and a way to show that.

As for a TIF, the one at the base area was an abuse of something meant for depressed areas instead being used to subsidize very valuable properties. A TIF in downtown SB is going to be similarly a subsidy for expensive properties and I think very unlikely to be approved by the public. The property values are going to seriously increase regardless of any "redevelopment".

What started Yampa St development in the first place? Was it some brilliant government policy? No, it was Lincoln Ave getting expensive and Yampa looking cheap by comparison. The amount of activity on Yampa or Oak St is going to be directly related to how high are the rents along Lincoln.

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 6 months ago

George, My apologies for wasting your time. My comments this morning were long winded, poorly written and too much math for a written forum. However, I certainly enjoyed reading the comments that followed and learning as I always do.

I give you permission to "un friend me" or whatever you need to do so that you don't have to read my comments anymore.. Oops, I guess that is Facebook so it looks like you are stuck with me.

By the way, I happily pay my inflated personal property taxes on my empty lot in Steamboat which pays for some of the services that were discussed today and of of which I get almost no benefit. Your welcome. I look forward to being a full time resident in 2014 and gaining enough "street cred" in your eyes to be on a forum with you.

For the rest of you, I really enjoy reading your thoughts about government and city planning. I have learned a lot from several of you the last couple months. Forums are never as good as face to face. I look forward to being in SB the first 2 weeks of December and I already have coffee plans with a few of you. George, I'm thinking the coffee thing is a no for you, right?

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bill schurman 1 year, 6 months ago

What started the development of Yampa Street ?? My good buddy (now in Austin), Alan Barbee, and the original Yacht Club.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Scott, I think the staff report, which I watched at City Council, went on to diminish the actual importance of those 3 mile circles which bear on property insurance rates. Several other factors bear on the same rates, etc...

Long story short, IMO the police and fire should stay put and no sale negotiated until all the other pieces, including the fiscal needs of future councils, are accommodated. In other words, waiting a few years to do this right.

A URA, and thus a TIF, can be installed by a Municipality upon a petition of 25 owners with the URA boundaries. The base area URA, as an example, got those signatures and only required the support of City Council. In that example, the City got the endorsement of the County. I believe the School District was not enthusiastic at the time.

Yes, if a ballot was required of the whole City, it would fail. For that matter, so would the current plan to move the public safety departments.

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mark hartless 1 year, 6 months ago

I just can't possibly understand why someone like George would get fired.

Bob, you got any ideas?

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 6 months ago

George,

I don't find your comments about me or others constructive, decent or acceptable. Unlike you, I will not try to make an analysis of why you behave the way you do, but you do behave like a bully. I wanted you to know that I have sent a request for your post that you wrote to be removed and I have also asked that there is some type of monitoring system to stop the bullying behavior that you are displaying.
Even though the words that you write are pure evil I don't wish you any harm. However, I don't wish to communicate with you anymore or acknowledge you in these post so I will not be doing so. I hope you can find some peace somehow. My apologies to the others on this post that were trying to discuss the topic. Bob

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Well, if city staff now says the three mile circles are not important then it may be time to say that city staff no longer has credibility on doing research and fairly presenting options. That proximity research was the only part of the staff report that appeared to have been actually researched with some supporting facts.

The claim that a public safety building creates a "dead zone" is made without supporting facts.

the claim that Big Agnes will jumpstart Yampa St economic development is made without supporting evidence.

Staff report says that the building was advertised as being for sale without ever admitting it was not in the MLS. Staff also alternates between saying it is a fair sales price and that it is okay to sell for less than market price because it is for economic development.

City staff long argued that Iron Horse bonds presented doing anything with the property. Then when they want to use IH for a police station then they find a way. But then fail to mention that same way would allow building to be sold.

At this point, it should be clear that city staff has lost credibility in their staff reports on this issue. This is way too important for sloppy "trust us" staff reports. Staff needs to go back and create a report with a full bibliography that can demonstrate the accuracy of every claim being presented.

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bill schurman 1 year, 6 months ago

Settle down boys. All of this is getting way off the topic.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 6 months ago

"...bit players that haven't had and aren't going to have any influence..."

Guilty as charged! :-) Happy not to care about it, though.

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George Hresko 1 year, 6 months ago

How about getting this thread back to topic--making decisions in logical order? Reading the articles and comments one has the clear sense that Yampa Street revitalization is a 'standalone' effort, independent of what may or must happen elsewhere within the city to promote economic growth while managing the necessary changes to services, transport, utilities, etc. The Urban Land Institute study did nothing to counter that sense for me. It would be very helpful to a relatively uninformed, relative newcomer to see just how the plans for Yampa St. fit into say, for example, handling traffic on US 40 through town, how that might fit into development on the edges across the river as well as toward Oak Street, and above. Will the revitalization of Yampa Street force businesses to leave Lincoln as the through traffic increases and alternatives are foreclosed? What will downtown feel like in say 20 years? Think of other towns east and west along US 40--Vernal, Heber City, or a bit closer, Craig or Granby. Which one is the model for future Steamboat Springs? Or is there another? It would be more than a little helpful to have a clear idea of the picture frame before repainting the picture.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks George.

Scott, those 3 mile radius circles are a factor, just not the whole of the criteria.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Steve, But those 3 mile circles was the one actual bit of documented reason in the staff report.

Staff report did not detail the rest of the criteria.

The next staff report should first go through a public review where staff promises that the final report will answer the questions submitted by the public.

As you've noted, the comment about dead zones was not made about the public safety building.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

To George's comment, and the order of these decisions. There are the infrastructure improvements (see 5pm meeting at Citizen's Hall today). I believe that outcome should precede the public safety commitment. If the funding by taxing districts is unsuccessful (or insufficient), and this is really about improving our economy, the City's own money is better spent on Yampa St sidewalks and lighting than on new police and fire campuses.

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mark hartless 1 year, 6 months ago

The Pilot does a dis-service to the community when it removes comments such as those from George Krawzoff. (pardon if there is mis-spelling)

Watching a person like George K. come un-glued is not pleasant. Nor is it anything to celebrate, but George's own words tells a bigger story and explains why others have posted comments such as they did. It might also explain why people lioke George (or, hell, me for that matter) might find ourselves mysteriously and suddenly out of a job.

Sure those comments might be hurtful, but that's how he meant them. So what?!! Didn't Momma tell us the one about "sticks and stones"?? Potentially hurtful comments, leveled against me and others, are posted here all the time. So what!?

The Steamboat Pilot deserves thanks for providing this forum, but it needs to stand back and let the fur fly when grown-ups, or those of us masquerading as grown-ups, dispense with the fluff.

Today's society is far too proned to look away from the grim realities of life, and this "cleaning-up" or "sterilizing" of Georges statements runs contrary to the ideal of journalism. They were his words, true journalism would let them live here in infamy, along with mine and everyone elses.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Mark, I disagree that all personal attacks should be allowed to stay.

If it is a little hyperbole saying a person is delusional when a precise statement is that the ideas are wrong then that can generally be ignored. Anyone with commonsense understands that it is not a serious claim that the person has mental issues, but that the ideas are being dismissed.

But when someone presents specific lies then there is no reason to let those persist. Why should people have to defend themselves from personal attacks? And at some point the paper needs to sanction, presumably after a warning, those that persist in making personal attacks.

These forums are supposed to be about ideas. Not about going after those that post.

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Robert Dippold 1 year, 6 months ago

Mark, By law, defamation of character (libel and slander) are not protected by free speech along with about 5 other areas. Contrary to what many people think, a person is not allowed to say whatever they want about another person in a public forum.
Steamboat Today has no choice than to revoke the privilege of a person's ability to communicate with their audience that is participating in defamation of character.

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mark hartless 1 year, 6 months ago

But who is being protected here? I think it is George K. being protected from light being shined on his maliciuosness. To remove the post keeps everyone from seeing what kind of person he really was.

But I think there is a bigger story here. That being how we, as a society, can't handle truth, criticism, differing opinions, or opposition, or just plain meanness. Cruelty and mean-spirited speach are now being legislated out of society; at least it is being tried. Although it has been said that you can't legislate morality, this is exactly what such laws attempt. What many fail to see is that eventually, only those words our rulers disapprove of will be considered "hateful", "slanderous".

Co nsider all the talk about bullying lately. Bullying has been around as long as there have been schoolyards. For many years parents taught their kids to ignore it and instilled in their children a sense of fortitude and character that allowed those kids to transcend and overcome such abuse. But today, kids take things so poorly that some resort to suicide. I think much of that happens because the person being bullied has been programed to expect sweetness and goodness and softness from a world where no such reality exists, This does them a dis-service. Much like taking down rude comments and sterilizing a blog. Step out of that cyber-world and into the real world and no such protections are available. Too many people expect soft treatment from a harsh world, and too many people attempt to render it. In the end it falls apart on the rocks of reality. I know many will disagree with me here. I'm ok with that. Go ahead.

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cindy constantine 1 year, 6 months ago

This is an important editorial about Council considering spending all of our reserves and going into more debt and the conversation has deteriorated into the above cumbersome drivel. I would suggest the Today staff sets up The Dump Station and transfers all unrelated postings to the dump so no ones freedom of speech is trampled on but the rest of us can continue to share ideas related to the topic of the article.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Mark, Just because bullying has long existed does not make it acceptable.

Racism was tolerated for centuries and is not now.

Punishing kids by physical abuse was tolerated for centuries and is not now.

Bullying is not disagreeing, but about finding a victim and piling on. It is not new that victims of bullying have higher suicide risks. it is just no longer being accepted.

From what I saw of George's posts, they were mostly like a bar argument of stating the ways that he didn't like you. Which is pretty easy to defend. And so not a problem for you, but there are people that seeing personal attacks apparently being tolerated by the site and become reluctant to post.

But then the paper needs to do something more severe against people that post defamatory lies. What if someone were to post that the police were at your property because of you committing some crime when the police were there because you found stolen property? The general public cannot easily know what is true. There should be no tolerance of personal attacks that claim someone is a bad person because of some claims of facts. The people that posts that sort of stuff should be warned and then banned.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Cindy, This editorial topic is well discussed on this and several other threads so I do not think any critical on topic information is being buried by the discussion on conduct. I note tat apparently this thread has had nearly as many comments deleted as are remaining.

The "most discussed" list shows this as having 28 comments posted and yet only 16 remain. Clearly, this thread has become a magnet for inappropriate comments.

That city council acted out of order was so obvious that there have been no comments arguing otherwise. I think the conversation has largely moved to the Urban Land Institute meeting and the question of whom should pay for revitalizing Yampa.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 6 months ago

"Why should people have to defend themselves from personal attacks? And at some point the paper needs to sanction, presumably after a warning, those that persist in making personal attacks."

Starting with you, Scott:

http://www.steamboattoday.com/polls/2012/aug/do-you-support-proposal-casino-near-yampa-valley-r/

Your harassment of me there is nothing but ad-hominem libel against my character because you disagreed with me (and were factually wrong in doing so). I complain to the police about you continuing to harass me, you respond by being a big baby and banning me from visiting my friends who rent from you, telling OCPD you "fear for your safety" when YOU are the one who has verbally and libelously assaulted ME.

You are in no position to be complaining about what anyone writes about you, when vicious personal attacks on this forum, or in person, are your M.O.

Your vicious attack against my character is why I think you are behind the note on my car, it's your M.O. Now you've gone and been a big baby telling OCPD you fear for your safety from me, and banned me from your property, so I can't visit my friends who are your tenants. This, because I take exception to your repeated verbal assaults against me, my friends, people who work for my town, etc. both on this forum and in person. You're not stable, and your little stunt with the cops today proves it.

The banning for inappropriate posts should start with YOU, Scott.

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cindy constantine 1 year, 6 months ago

ERIC AND SCOTT-- Can the two of you duke it out somewhere else?????????????????????

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Eric, Since the paper decided to leave that post -

First, a No Trespass Order can be signed by any property against anyone and needs no justification. It is not a restraining order and you are free to use the alley and streets even if I am out there. Only thing is that if I feel uncomfortable seeing you coming towards me then I can retreat to my property knowing that you cannot follow.

Second, the very anger shown in your posts directed at me is why I currently want to be able to safely retreat onto my property if I see you heading my way.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

And since the charge is still being made in a post that is still remaining - I had nothing to do with the note on your car. Your car was left on the neighboring property that includes the rock piles. That property owner freely says he left the note on your car. Neither he, or the police, consider the note he left to be any sort of threat against the car's owner. It was just a request to move it or else it'll get towed. That property owner tells me you two talked about your car being on his property and that you promised to soon move into a garage. So he isn't going to immediately tow it.

Based upon facts known to you, it is clear that, I had nothing to do with your car and yet you keep saying I did.

Thus, I do not trust your judgment at this time and want to be able to safely retreat if I see you heading toward me.

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