Boulder neighbors settle dispute in unused land case
Aspen, CO Colorado
BOULDER, Colo. ” A Boulder couple who seized a third of their neighbors’ vacant lot under an obscure “squatters rights” legal doctrine have been awarded a smaller plot to settle the dispute.
Last year, a judge granted Richard McLean and Edith Stevens a large chunk of their neighbors’ land under Colorado’s so-called adverse possession law, which allows trespassers to take over land if they use it unchallenged for at least 18 years.
The neighbors, Don and Susie Kirlin, appealed, and on Tuesday they announced they had settled the dispute by giving up a strip ranging from 5 feet to 9 feet wide, or about 12 percent of the lot.
Tuesday’s agreement must be approved by a judge, the Camera newspaper reported.
The battle started when the Kirlins built a fence on their property, blocking a path that McClean, a former judge and Boulder mayor, and Stevens, an attorney, had used for more than 25 years to access their back yard.
McClean and Stevens pressed a claim to the land under adverse possession, and a judge awarded them a third of it in October 2007. Tuesday’s settlement gives McClean and Stevens 12 percent of the land, or 540 square feet.
The dispute stirred public protests and death threats against McLean and Stevens. It also prompted state legislators to change the law so that judge can now force those who claim unused land to pay fair market value for that land they win and to compensate the original owner for back property taxes and interest.
“Out here in the West, people feel very strongly about property rights,” said Andy Low, attorney for the Kirlins. “It touched on a lot of people’s concerns about their own property.”
The Kirlins plan to sell their lot, with mountain views, and it’s listed at $925,000.
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