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September 22, 2020

Town Trustees Hear Citizens’ Concerns Over OHV Noise, Parking, Speeding


Several community members were present at the August 15 Town of Lake City Board of Trustees regular meeting to discuss the issues of noise, parking and OHVs with Mayor Bruce Vierheller and trustees Dave Roberts, Richard Moore, Jud Hollingsworth, Alan Rae, Marty Priest and Jeff Heaton. In addition to trustees and mayor, also attending were Town Clerk Jamie Turrentine, although Town Manager Caroline Mitchell was out of town.
The conversation began with Trustee Alan Rae, a Ball Flats resident who also serves as Back Country Ranger on the Alpine Loop, who noted, “coming into Ball Flats, there is a situation where things are starting to get a little out of hand. We’re getting a lot of people coming through there [on OHVs] way too fast. I asked [Town Manager] Caroline Mitchell to consider putting some kind of signage at 8-1/2 and Water Streets saying ‘no thru traffic,’ ‘no turn around’ to slow things down.”
Mayor Vierheller assured Ray that Mitchell is looking into the situation.
Rae continued, “I appreciate that. I can honestly attest I have observed more than once people coming through there almost ending up in my yard. I had one come through the street and across the vacant lot across from my house. We’re so short on staff, I’ve visited with Ron [Sheriff Ron Bruce] on this and he said we just need to bring this to everyone’s attention here.”
Audience member and homeowner Ron Jeffers offered his view on the situation, “Can I address that as well?”
Jeffers relayed an incident involving his grandson who rode his OHV in town and over the Alpine Loop, and was cited for not wearing eye protection after having removed them at the conclusion of his ride.
Jeffers said, “Sheriff Bruce stopped him and gave him a citation for no eye protection — that’s all right, he was breaking the law and we paid that citation. But we’ve got that 15 mile an hour road on 8-1/2 street; I bought that cabin in 2007 and I’ve never seen anyone getting a speeding ticket on any of those [Ball
Flats] roads… it really disturbs me that they’re willing to give a citation for that particular requirement, eye protection, but no one pays any attention to the speed limit. I just don’t understand why only some of the rules are being recognized.”
Vierheller replied he has heard reports from the Sheriff’s Office that there are other places in town with the same issue. He explained that the town contracts with the Sheriff’s Office and doesn’t tell them how or when to enforce regulations. “At the end of the season,” Vierheller explained, “we are going to review all the citations that have been written and when we have our joint meeting in November with the county, we’ll discuss the good and bad things — the pros and cons on the OHV issue.”
Jeffers concluded his comments, noting “I sympathize with the people and the businesses in town, they [the OHVs] bring in a lot of money for them, but those vehicles are very, very loud. Very annoying, very loud.”
During the Citizen’s Communications portion of the meeting, a letter written by community member Kerry Coy was read regarding a house in her neighborhood with, as she wrote, “vehicles parked every direction and giant trailers in the right of way.”
Vierheller asked Coy, who was present in the audience, if she wished to comment on her letter. She noted that she and her husband, John Coy, met with the town administrator and Hinsdale Undersheriff Justin Casey. “The three issues that I brought up were noise, safety, and parking.”
Coy stated that she had researched Colorado State Statutes on noise levels in residential areas, as well as statutes on parking. She noted she is interested in one model transportation code in particular.
“The code for parking is very specific and I can promise you that I will be monitoring Model Transportation Code 1205 and how it pertains to town streets.” The parking situation, she said, “contributes to the overall carelessness or lawlessness of Lake City and I will be informing, particularly on what’s happening in front of the school, as those violations occur.”
For clarification, Vierheller asked Coy if she was referring to the diagonal parking on Silver Street in front of the school.
Coy responded that the diagonal parking at the school has been approved. “If you’ll read [Transportation Model Code] 1205, you’ll see that the town can make exceptions to the parking statute that allow for diagonal parking anyplace they choose.”
“I’m not complaining about the parking in front of my house, we worked that out with the school; the diagonal is on one side, the parallel is on the other. However, in every other part of town, they continue to pull in, heading the wrong direction and there are a number of unlicensed vehicles parked in the right of way with expired tags.”
Vierheller thanked Coy for her comments, assuring her that town staff will investigate the situation.
Thanking him, she concluded her remarks, “I hear every OHV that drives by; I can almost tell you by model what they are driving at this point. I think the state statute is 55 decibels in a residential area for any vehicle under 10,000 pounds.”
Trustee Rae addressed this comment, saying, “Concerning the noise complaints, Sheriff Bruce wanted me to relay to the trustees that when we have our meeting with the County Commissioners on the 5th of September, this is going to be addressed. He’s proposing that we introduce an amendment to try and follow what San Juan County and some of the other counties have done to quiet things down for Lake City. He doesn’t want us to make any decisions until the town trustees and the commissioners can get together. He’s gathering different laws and regulations from around the state, and I can assure you they are going to try to quiet this down.”
Also commenting during Citizens Communication was audience member Teresa Pippin. Pippin stated that she now lives in Green Valley, Arizona, but was formerly a Lake City resident beginning in 1990.
Pippin remarked that she first came to Lake City as a child and she and her husband, Bill Pippin bought their first property here in 1990. “We moved here because it was our dream in life to live in Lake City full time and we accomplished that in 2005. We were so proud to call Lake City home.”
“The kinds of things that have been discussed here tonight are the kinds of things that made Bill and I decide to leave Lake City, because we were no longer proud to call Lake City home.”
“I’ve kept up loosely with Lake City, reading the [town meeting] minutes information about this issue; I wasn’t sure I was going to come tonight, but I drove past what I would call the Cinnamon Inn [on Gunnison avenue across from Presbyterian Church] and there were six ATVs parked in that front yard, five cars and trucks. I circled this building there’s a — I’m guessing — 45 foot motorhome parked right there [gesturing toward adjacent Bluff Street] plugged into power. There’s cars and trucks parked amok all over town.”
“I just felt the need to come down and express to you guys what I think has happened here. To me, it’s not about the OHVs, it’s not about the speeding, its not about any one of these particular things. It’s about the respect for the citizens and taxpayers that live here year-round and live here in the summer.”
“I think somehow the town has lost its way and what’s important to the citizenry that pay all the taxes. I know that all the tourists bring in money, but I knew I couldn’t make a living running a business depending just on tourists. So I decided to invest in real estate and rentals and remodeling homes.”
“We kept tons of people working through the recession and during the recovery because we lived here full time. We left more here than we are taking out, that’s for sure. But it was when we realized that the guidance that we got from the old guys in the bars 30 years ago — many of whom are gone now. They said ‘we may argue over how to make a living up here, but one thing you can bet on is that Lake City will never sell its soul.’”
“And from what I see happening, Lake City has sold it’s soul.”
“We love Lake City, but last year Bill and I looked at each other and we said – ‘we don’t want to be here in the summer.’ We lived here year-round for ten years but we had to leave our Henson Street house and move out into the county, to San Juan Hills. So we thought we’ve got to stay high in the hills because the town is not going to enforce the OHV rules. So we stayed out there in San Juan Hills, and OHVs are running up and down all over the highway, all over the streets, circling our driveway, all around our cabin.”
“So, all this said, we decided last year, we’re going to give it up. I fought the hardest fight I could fight to prevent OHVs on the street, but we had the perfect storm. We had a sherriff that wouldn’t enforce the laws, we had a chamber of commerce person who was serving punch that the town was going to die without OHVs, we had several strong business people who said they could not make it without OHVs, and we had a town manager at the time who would do anything to get us out of the recession.”
“The town sold its soul, in my view. These are all my views and anyone can disagree with them. But because of that, Bill and I happily drove here to stay from the middle of May to the middle of June and we stayed as renters. We didn’t stain one deck, we didn’t buy one thing from Jud [Hollingsworth, former owner of Blue Spruce Building materials]. I can’t tell you how much money we’ve spent in this town over the years.”
“Somehow you’ve lost the town. You, as trustees, have lost control of the town, and somehow you’ve got to get a grip on it; if you have to, budget a ton of money to enforce the rules. I was actually standing at a market in Green Valley, Arizona overhearing people talk who were from South Fork. Pagosa Springs and Ouray talking about what’s happened in Lake City, about how Lake City has lost its charm. I don’t know how you’re going to recover from this.”
“As one person who votes, what’s troubling me is that this issue was voted against three times, against this major change in town. With 120 votes for and 96 against, 24 people made the decision to change Lake City like this.”
“Thousands and thousands of people live in this county who could not vote. Me being one of them because I’d already moved to the county. And those people who own all these homes, they’re keeping the laborers in business, they’re keeping the townspeople in business, they provide the majority of the work that keeps everybody here.”
“Yes, there are a few restaurants that might not do as well with a few less OHVs, but the people who are really paying the bills in Lake City are the people who are being forgotten. People who live here year round and then have to put up with this in the summer.”
“If you have any questions for me or you want to tell me I’m full of it, feel free to do that. I just felt the need to go on record and say that the change in Lake City is so severe for me that we made the decision to
pull our money out of Lake City.”
“You, as mayor and board, can’t defer your responsibility to the Sheriff’s Office. You hire a person to enforce your laws. If you can’t enforce them through them, then you have to consider what to do about that. That’s what’s happened for years, it’s been defered and defered, but its actually your job.”
Pippin concluded her remarks, “this job is so big and you don’t get paid anything for it and I thank you all for being willing to do it. I want to wish you all the very best. I love this town and I want to see it change.”
Further discussion of the OHVs included mention of Ordinance 2017-02 and Colorado Statute 424225, Colorado Revised Statutes, referring to exhaust systems on vehicles which are not to be modified to amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor vehicle.
Mayor Vierheller reiterated that the Sheriff’s Office is concerned about noise complaints and is looking into the situation.
“We are going to discuss all of this at the end of the season. Every year there are more incidents and more complaints. Citizens have the right to make complaints and give input, and it may go to a vote again. There’s a lot of things that could happen. The board could consider not allowing OHVs anymore, and the state highway department is considering different things too, through the Loop, and a lot of different choices that we have to look at and consider. Your concerns are noted and will be considered at the next meeting in three weeks.”

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