Off-the-grid newcomers have won a major victory in Costilla County, Colorado, as county commissioners shelved a plan to require water, septic tanks and electricity for building permits.
Proposed changes to the county’s zoning regulations would have effectively prevented many residents from building homes on off-grid properties they purchased in Costilla County, Colorado Public Radio and Off The Grid News previously reported. Dozens of off-grid residents may have been forced out of the county, simply because they couldn’t meet the requirements. Some, for example, are using composting toilets.
The proposed changes made national news last week when a story about a dispute between long-time county residents and off-the-grid residents was picked up by news outlets as far away as San Francisco. A shouting match outside a county commissioners’ meeting on the issue had led to the arrest of some protesters.
County Backs Down
But the county shelved the proposed land-use code changes on Oct. 1, Colorado Public Radio (CPR)reported. No reason was given, but the action followed a number of media stories.
“We all felt like it became a distraction,” the county’s chief administrative officer, Ben Doon, said, according to CPR.
Doon now believes that the county’s existing code is adequate to handle the situation.
Off-grid residents cheered the news.
“This can be a very positive development for the community that all of this happened,” Chloe Everhart, a newcomer who was critical of the changes, told CPR. Everhart had been organizing opposition to the new code. “Maybe we can start working together to solve some things that have been problems for a very long time.”
The inaction by the commission doesn’t solve the problem of camping permits. Some off-gridders have camped at their sites for long periods of times – which led the county to stop issuing long-term permits.
Property owner Bob Pinnick alleged that a code enforcement officer that came to his property was wearing body armor and a pistol, a local newspaper, The Conjeos County Citizen, reported. The officer was accompanied by an armed sheriff’s deputy.
‘There’s a Misunderstanding’
The officer was apparently there to evict Pinnick, saying he was illegally camping out on his own property. Costilla County’s land use code requires a permit for camping for more than 14 days, even if it’s on a person’s own land.
Pinnick wanted to camp there while he built a home.
“We have sought the necessary permits, but we can’t get them,” another resident identified only as Leslie said.
Said another resident, known as Sundance, “There’s a misunderstanding of what we are doing here. Off the grid just means you’re setting up your own infrastructure.”
Costilla County is located in San Luis County in southern Colorado, a sparsely populated rural area. The region was divided into tens of thousands of lots many years ago but most of the lots were never developed because there is no water, road maintenance or electricity.
That makes the lots very cheap, so people with little money buy them to develop off-the-grid homes.
The moral of the story is clear: Never believe what a realtor or developer selling cheap land tells you about land-use regulations. Check with the local government before you buy if you want to avoid a legal conflict with the local government.