Mirror staff report
MONTROSE—(April 14, 2014) The collection of scrappy buildings scattered along the canyon rim are obviously placed to take advantage of the high country view from the top edge of Spring Creek Canyon. However, the structures also reveal a case in which private property rights have tumbled through the cracks.
When an acquaintance viewed an aerial photo from Montrose County GIS last year, two local landowners learned the truth—that someone who appeared to be encroaching on their property line had actually crossed it—and had built himself an entire compound on their land, not his own. Today, the pair—who confirmed the situation with a follow-up survey completed at their own expense–find themselves forced to litigate an obvious property rights violation because of the extensive changes made to their land by the trespasser, who still resides on the plot.
Though Nicholas Hidu, Jr. a part-time resident of Colorado and Florida, had not pulled either building, access or sanitation permits from Montrose County prior to building, the matter is now tied up in court. A lawsuit, case number, 13-CV-112, was filed in December as the local landowners, Scott Kenton and Brad Switzer (a local attorney) attempt to remove Hidu, a residence, port-a-potties, garages, sheds and carports from their cliffside property in Spring Creek Canyon.
The matter is unfortunate, said Montrose County Commissioner Ron Henderson, who has known both Kenton and Switzer for many years.
“This type of thing has happened before,” Henderson said, “But usually it can be resolved in other ways. However this case involves so many legal issues, which can increase exposure, tension and the length of time needed to resolve it. I am really sorry it has happened, but it is a situation which can come about for any of us. This guy has no certificate of occupancy, and no road permit.
“Eventually this will all be straightened out, and this person will be forced to leave,” Henderson said. “Hopefully he can pay for the damages he has caused—it is really an unfortunate, awful situation.”
Montrose County Planner Steve White noted that in most cases, someone who intends to build a number of buildings will check to make sure he is within the boundaries of his own property and will take the time to obtain the appropriate building and sanitation permits.
“Most people are smarter than this,” White said. “Even in the backwoods of Arkansas there are minimum standards for things like septic systems.”
White said that it is the first time in his 20 years as a planner that he has seen a structure built entirely on someone else’s land.
“This property is in violation,” White said.
Switzer, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kenton and himself, said it will take a long time to resolve the matter.
“Because of the nature of the judicial process, it could be months or even next year before this is resolved,” he said. “And that is assuming that nobody files an appeal.”
Calls to Hidu and to his attorney, John J. Mitchel of Montrose, were not returned by press time.