Gravel pit operator suing Garco
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A lawsuit accusing Garfield County of violating the law is the latest in a battle with local government that began 16 years ago for Bill Vezzoso.
Vezzoso owns and operates an excavation business called Independent Trucking, which involves his home on Willow Lane just outside of Carbondale.
Neighbors had complained about noise, dust, diesel fumes, heavy machinery, a gravel pit and fences on the property later found to violate zoning regulations. County Commissioners in March voted to order that the grading or excavating, storage of excavation equipment and illegal fences all need to cease or be brought into compliance within 60 days. Commissioner John Martin voted against other commissioners, Tresi Houpt and Larry McCown, saying he believed Vezzoso had vested property rights for the operation that should be preserved.
One neighbor at that time said smoke and dust coming from the Vezzosos’ property is so thick that he couldn’t see his horses from one end of the pasture to the next. Another said her house fills with diesel fumes. About three others voiced similar complaints.
According to the complaint, the Vezzosos appealed the March decision to the Garfield County Board of Adjustment. The BOA denied the appeal after a May 30 evidentiary hearing.
“The BOA’s findings were not supported by competent evidence in the record,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit was filed on June 25 by David Fine of the Denver firm Kelly, Garnsey, Hubbell and Lass, LLC. It names as defendants the board of commissioners, the board of adjustment and county planning department director Fred Jarman.
It goes on to mention “uncontroverted” testimony by witnesses about an agreement with the county Vezzoso says he reached after being cited in 1991 for zoning violations. Vezzoso has maintained that the 1991 zoning violation citation was dismissed after an agreement was reached allowing him and others 10 pieces of heavy equipment per five acres of land. He has maintained these are vested property rights allowing him to continue his business. The complaint says the Vezzoso’s relied upon this agreement and invested in their business because of it.
The complaint also argues that the property legally is considered agricultural property for zoning purposes, which would apparently make his front fence legal. It cites two reasons: because “the county stipulated that the Vezzosos had decreed water rights” and because the Vezzoso’s raised livestock for the primary purpose of making a profit.
“The BOA’s denial of Vezzoso’s appeal was arbitrary and capricious as it was not supported by evidence and because the BOA misconstrued and/or misapplied the applicable law,” the complaint states. It also says denying the appeal “violated the Vezzosos’ federal constitution due process rights.”
The complaint says the county’s actions deprive the Vezzosos of their vested property rights granted in 1991 and caused the Vezzosos to suffer damages in an amount to be determined at trial. The lawsuit includes a motion asking that the Vezzosos be allowed to continue operations temporarily until the matter is resolved in court.
Assistant county attorney Michael Howard, whose office said he is handling the case for Garfield County, didn’t immediately return a phone message Tuesday afternoon.
Vezzoso didn’t wish to comment.
“I’d really like to talk to my lawyer before I talk to anybody,” he said. “The press hasn’t been very friendly so far and we plan on maybe putting our side in and maybe not.”
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