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Lada in limbo

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Lada Vrany, a crusty Czech who has battled Pitkin County on various issues over the past 18 years, might have finally lost the war.Vrany’s future on the ranch where he has lived since 1958 is in jeopardy. Seven tenants who rent space from him were evicted Thursday after county officials discovered “substandard living conditions” there. Environmental health officers found raw sewage on the grounds, according to county aviation director Jim Elwood.The tenants who rent ancient trailer houses and rooms in various sheds on the ramshackle ranch must vacate by June 2. Vrany, 86, groused that Communists from the Soviet Union treated people in his homeland better when they invaded.Vrany, 86, didn’t receive an eviction notice. However, an additional investigation will be necessary to see if the septic system serving his house functions properly, according to Elwood.

Vrany leased what was once a 480-acre ranch from Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke. The county acquired the property in 1988 – triggering a running feud with Vrany. He’s been allowed to stay on the ranch, but he claims the county has tried different tricks over the years to force him off.The ranch is along Owl Creek Road, adjacent to the Pitkin County airport. Elwood is the county’s primary contact with Vrany.Vrany’s initial beef with the county was over water rights. The county initially declined to buy rights offered at $45,000. The county commissioners reconsidered and decided in 1996 to purchase the rights from the Paepcke estate. By that time the price had escalated to $850,000.Vrany alleges that the county doesn’t track those rights well enough and isn’t acquiring its fair share for the ranch. He no longer receives enough water to irrigate 350 acres of pasture properly. Therefore, he said, he can no longer grow enough hay to make a living.County officials have always denied Vrany’s allegations.

But Vrany contends that since he doesn’t receive enough water to irrigate properly he shouldn’t pay rent. He has refused for 10 years to pay rent on the land and ranch house.Vrany generally charged between $100 and $250 in rent for the trailers and other spaces on the ranch. He needs the rental income to survive, he said.Even if the county finds his septic system is adequate and allows him to stay on the property, he is uncertain how he can scrape by without the rental income.County Manager Hilary Smith said Vrany was renting out spaces without permission. Elwood said county officials had no idea until recently that Vrany was renting out space even though the government has owned the ranch since 1988. One tenant said he’s rented from Vrany for almost 20 years.

Some of the trailers and other rental units don’t have plumbing for water or sewer. Elwood said the environmental health department’s initial survey found raw sewage on the site. The county issues a cease and desist order on any septic system on the property other than at Vrany’s house.Vrany said a code enforcement officer who served the eviction notices told him he must talk to Smith to learn if he can remain on the property. That conservation hasn’t occurred yet.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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