Neighbors don’t dig dirt moving
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” An anonymous complaint to the county by a neighbor that a Carbondale contractor is illegally running his business from his residence touched off a dispute before the Garfield County commissioners Monday.
Bill Vezzoso, who lives on Willow Lane just east of Carbondale off County Road 100, is accused of violating zoning and building codes.
Code enforcement officer Ron VanMeter said he received an unsigned letter on Nov. 28, 2006, which said Vezzoso was operating an unpermitted gravel pit operation on his property.
After investigating the claim, VanMeter said he found various violations including illegal fencing, an illegal shop, storing heavy equipment on the site, a natural resources handling operation and grading without a permit.
“In 1990 the owners, the Vezzosos, were issued a summons from the Garfield County sheriff for a zoning violation pertaining to heavy equipment being operated on the property,” VanMeter said. He added that the outcome of that summons was not documented.
If the commissioners find Vezzoso violated zoning and building codes, he will have 30 days to remedy the situation, namely obtaining a special use permit for the operation.
For his part, Vezzoso said he was not operating his excavation business from his home but has been working for several years to correct drainage problems on his land and was unaware he needed a permit to do so.
Vezzoso’s lawyer, Mike Sawyer, with the Glenwood Springs firm of Leavenworth and Karp, said the couple’s property is agricultural in nature, and permits for improving the land are not necessary.
“In 1986 we came out to a property full of cheat grass and thistle and not a tree,” said Kim Vezzoso. “We started with ditches and horse pens and pig pens,” and planted a garden and flowers.
“In a few years you made substantial agricultural improvements,” Sawyer said.
The Vezzosos had special problems with the land, which slopes downhill from the county road toward the Roaring Fork River – spring irrigation usually resulted in flooded pasture on their property.
“I’m just a small-town community guy,” Bill Vezzoso said. “I’ve lived here all my life. I grew up in a trailer court. I learn as I go. For a poor guy to land up with something respectable, you pick at it.”
What he thought would be a 10-year project may well take double that amount of time. Vezzoso said the eight-foot high cinderblock wall he built around part of the property was meant to screen high winds that plague that area.
Piles of gravel and dirt on his land are fill that he screens to use for top soil for grading his property to a level that will allow water to run off and therefore make it more productive.
In 1991, he said the county dropped his summons and said “I could continue with their blessing and keep up to 10 pieces of equipment on my parcel.”
The Vezzosos had friends who testified on their behalf Monday in Glenwood Springs. They spoke of him as a man concerned with his community by donating his labor and equipment to public projects and a neighbor always there with a helping hand.
“Bill is a good guy,” said his brother, David Wanzer, of Silt.
However, neighbor Chris Beebe painted a different picture. He said he was concerned with diesel fumes and dust and noise coming from the Vezzoso’s property and tried to “handle it diplomatically.”
He said the operation on Vezzoso’s property “is a full-blown excavation operation” that is illegal. “Obviously Bill has a lot of support here. It’s disappointing it came to this. I tried to handle it in a neighborly way and was met with threats, bullying and intimidation.”
Beebe said last summer the Vezzoso’s dog came in his yard and growled at his daughter and her caretaker. He said he called the Vezzosos and the dog was removed “four hours later after (Beebe) had been screamed at and intimidated.”
He also said he was not the author of the anonymous letter.
The Vezzoso’s son, Bill Jr., assured Beebe the family wanted “open lines of communication” between the neighbors and urged him to call them at any time.
Neighbor Charles Cady said to the commissioners, “I’ve lived down there since ’78 and recently construction activity has greatly increased. The 10-vehicle rule was never written down or there is no record.”
Commissioner Larry McCown asked for and got a continuation of the hearing to give the commissioners time to mull over the information they’d received Monday. The matter will come before them on March 5.
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