But most of them seem to be preparing to move their old buses and mobile homes off the Nelson’s property by a county-ordered deadline of Sept. 30. That deadline was imposed by Grand County Building Official Jeff Whitney, Nelson said.
Last week, Whitney told the Grand County Council that he met with Charlie Nelson and they agreed that people remaining on the property would have to be removed by Sept. 22.
The county’s land use code requires sanitary facilities within 200 feet of primitive camp sites, but that is impossible because the 57-acre property where the old buses and mobile homes are lies in the Colorado River flood plain, Whitney said.
Nelson and Travis Kelly, who lives in a bus on the property, have voiced objections on humanitarian grounds to the county forcing people with very low incomes off the property. There is nowhere else they are allowed to park their makeshift homes, Nelson and Kelly said.
“They’re human beings, you gotta deal with them,” Nelson said.
He mentioned a woman who must use crutches because she has a broken pelvis. “I just don’t know the answer for her,” he said.
“There are legitimate places that will take [the buses],” Whitney said in an interview. He mentioned the Dowd Flat and Pack Creek campgrounds.
Regarding the deadline, Whitney said the letter imposing a Sept. 22 deadline did not get mailed until Sept. 14, so he has agreed with Nelson that he will wait until the end of the month before he refers the case to the Grand County Attorney.
Whitney said he gave notice to Nelson last May that the buses and trailers would have to be moved. He was puzzled, he said, that the people living on Nelson’s property did not know they were to be evicted until early in August.
Part of the agreement between Nelson and Whitney is that if the 57-acre area on the river side of Kane Creek Road is cleared of vehicles by the end of the month, Nelson will not have to pay five years of back taxes on the property.
That amount would be $9,000 for the 57 acres, Grand County Assessor Dorothy Gough said.
But, Gough added, Nelson will have to pay $1,728 in back taxes for his property on the cliff side of the road, where housing can remain because it is not located in the flood plain.
The tax issue arises because all the property has been classified as green belt, meaning that it is taxed only for its agricultural value, Gough said.
State code requires payment of five years of back taxes if the use of the property has been something other than agricultural, according to Whitney.
But the land on the river side of the road is not suitable for growing crops because it is periodically flooded, Nelson said.
Gough said she “must see for myself” that the land is indeed in agricultural use before she will agree that it qualifies for the green-belt tax exemption. She suggested that the land must be fenced and have cattle grazing on it before she will be satisfied.
There is not much time left for Nelson to meet those requirements.
“He needs to do it before he gets assessed for 2010 taxes,” Gough said. Whitney said those taxes are due before Dec. 1.
Portable toilets might be acceptable, Whitney said, but only if the land is zoned commercial and back taxes are paid.
Saying that the county has picked a pretty poor time, during an extended economic recession, Kelly said he would be willing to move his bus to Nelson’s Kane Creek Campground to resolve the issue.
But, Nelson said, his son Jim, who runs the campground, will not allow old buses on the property because he wants to keep it attractive to tourists.