County: Smuggler campers must leave
When the city of Aspen and Pitkin County bought 170 acres on Smuggler Mountain Dec. 20, they didn’t know people lived there. Now they’re trying to get two men off the land.But Matthew Cullen, also known as musician Dusty Stone, doesn’t want to leave by the county’s Feb. 28 deadline; he wants to stay until spring. He began looking after the equipment and structures on the hillside on Aspen’s northeast side when George “Wilk” Wilkinson owned it last summer. Wilkinson hired him to prevent vandalism, Cullen said.”I’m not asking for the world,” Cullen said. “I’m just asking to stay here until spring.”He can’t move any of his belongings, which include furniture, until the snow melts and he can drive a vehicle up the road. Open Space and Trails officials have told him he can wait until spring to move his personal items but he must stop living there by the end of the month because it’s a liability for the county, as well as against Pitkin County code. In addition, there are no bathrooms, electricity or trash removal services on the land.”It’s one of those things: We can’t set a precedent to allow people to live up there,” said the county’s land steward, Gary Tennenbaum.Cullen intends to file a restraining order against county officials on Monday. He said they are harassing him by telling him they’re going to visit the land every week. Ranger naturalist Keith Berglund said he would make regular visits to check on the land and see if it looks like Cullen and the other caretaker are moving out but said he hasn’t badgered Cullen and doesn’t intend to.”We did not harass anyone,” Tennenbaum said. “We told him that we are going to take action to make sure no one lives up there.”If Cullen is not out by Feb. 28, he is subject to a $100 fine for breaking county code. The second offense results in a $500 fine, the third in a $1,000 fine.Though Cullen is upset the county didn’t give him a 30-day written eviction notice, the county is not required to do so.”When people are living on county property, it’s not an eviction, and it’s not trespassing, because it’s public property. They’re camping, and we’re stopping them,” Tennenbaum said.Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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