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U.S. County Running Off-Gridders Out Of Town

U.S. County Running Off-Gridders Out Of Town

Image source: Wikimedia

Modern day homesteaders seeking an off-the-grid lifestyle in one of Colorado’s most rural areas have triggered what they moved there to avoid: a battle with the county government over land-use regulations.

Some off-grid residents accuse county officials of harassment and trying to run them out.

The battle turned a routine county commissioners’ meeting in San Louis, Colorado, into an ugly shouting match between sheriff deputies and off-grid homesteaders, Colorado Public Radio (CPR) reported. A YouTube video supplied to CPR shows deputies arresting off-grid demonstrators for chanting about the Constitution.

Located on the New Mexico border in the south-central part of the state, Costilla County is considered the oldest and ninth-least populated county in Colorado. In recent years it has seen an influx of mostly young and lower-income families seeking an off-the-grid lifestyle.

The newly proposed code would require a well, septic tank, and electricity to be installed in a home prior to receiving a building permit, CPR reported. That would require many off-gridders to leave, because water is scarce.

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“We’ve been regulated out of life,” resident Robin Rutan told CPR. “I came here because I couldn’t live by the codes [in other regions]”

Many of the newcomers are veterans who want to get away from the city. Others simply cannot afford the high prices for land and homes in other, more fashionable parts of Colorado such as the Central Rockies. The situation is explosive because around 800 new residents have moved into a county that has a population of around 3,700, The Denver Post reported.

U.S. County Running Off-Gridders Out Of Town

Costilla County

“People who come out here have already been through a lot,” resident Chloe Everhart told CPR. “For a lot of us, there’s not much of a home to go back to. … What’s next could be under a bridge in Denver.”

A combination of cheap land, lack of zoning regulations, scenery and solitude is luring the modern day homesteaders to the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. Sundance Stadler, a newcomer from Vermont, told The Post that he had paid $3,250 for five acres in Costilla County.

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One contentious issue is camping permits which are now required in the county. Many of the homesteaders are camping out while they build permanent homes, but the county has stopped issuing camping permits which makes it illegal for residents to camp on their own property.

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“A lot of time we find families living in run-down sheds or in RVs, or some actually in tents,” Matthew Valdez, Costilla County’s land-use administrator, told The Post. “We tell them they cannot live in these conditions. A lot of them abandon their RVs here and they get vandalized, and after a while they become a trash issue.”

Water War

Water is one of the divisive issues because its supply is limited in the San Luis Valley. Most of the water rights are in the hands of farmers who have lived in the area for generations. Some off-gridders go to town (such as to a public facility) to fill up water containers.

Other issues include the effects on the schools and services. Costilla County’s chief administrative officer, Ben Doon, said that around 58 new students have enrolled in the local schools – a big increase for a small county.

“The vast majority is from people out there,” Doon told CPR, referring to the off-grid residents.

The conflict in Costilla County is not going to end anytime soon. There are around 40,000 subdivided lots in Costilla County — some which are being sold on the Internet to newcomers for a few thousand dollars.

“When you buy the land they make you think you can do anything with it,” said Rutan, who told CPR that she and her husband moved to the area because they no longer could afford to live in Glenwood Springs.

What do you think? Who is right – the off-grid residents or the county? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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13 comments

  1. The county should definitely stop harassing these poor people that are just trying to be self sufficient and not be a burden on society. If they want to live poor while not burdening other people, that’s their business! Let them alone!

    • CC "wishing I could live off Grid too"

      I’ll second that Masquita. People are living in the streets, under bridges, in parks and our government is interfering with those who are trying to make it the best way they can. We are citizens of these United States need to support each other!

  2. I have known people who live off grid and make their own electricity put in cisterns or wells and live well. let people live a free life and be who they are w/o govt. interference.if they aren’t hurting anyone how can we judge them.and if the govt. wants to make it illegal to live somewhere w/o electricity and septic system and running water then these things should be included in price of land.thanx through venting

  3. Thanks for the article, I was looking at land there, and was discussing it with the Hubby. Looks like we will be finding another area, to buy some land.

  4. I lived off-grid in the high country of Costilla county for about 4 years a few seasons back. Loved it! I highly recommend it as a lifestyle. Lived for free, no utilities and a small tax footprint.

    This is about money. The county wants the permitting fees (at the time about $2400 per site), the inspectors want the inspection fees and the contractors want paid to put in your power, well and septic. It’s a small community and they are all related, well inspector is cousin to the land-use administrator whose wife’s uncle owns a backhoe to install septic systems. The above picture may not be completely accurate but you get the idea.

    A well will run you $20,000 add another $5,000 for a septic system. Grid attached power, if you can get it in your area, will cost roughly $10,000 per mile to run the lines. Plus, as I mentioned above, roughly $2400 in permitting fees.

    • Yes, everyone is related in this part of the country. However, with 800 new people moving into the area we can take any office by voting out the commissioners, mayor…anyone who is against freedom. Most everyone I’ve met, those new to the area, are Constitutionalists and want to be left alone. This is why the County is trying to get rid of these people. 800 constitutionalists in a year??? Are you for real? Do people really understand that 800 constitutionalist people in an area that has had 3700 ppl in the entire county?

      How hard is this? We have many good people here who just want to be left alone and of course the system loathes the idea and will tax, permit, ordinance…you out of existence.

      Off the Grid News, will you allow people to email/call/comment and leave contact info where we can start getting people of like minds together? Please contact me, you have my email.

  5. I live right in the middle of this, we don’t need people who are scared away from this place. We need people who will stand up for America. It is all good until this hits in your own back-yard. If you think you’ll find a place in America that will afford you your freedoms just because you think you’re free, I have bad news for you.
    First they came for the infirmed and I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t infirmed…
    We all know how this story ended. The same is happening because we are allowing those who chose to spit on the Constitution and mock us because we want a Country governed by our Constitution!
    We stand together or all fall separately!
    God will not hold us guiltless, silence in the face of evil is evil in itself, not to speak is to speak. This country either stands up to this outright treasonous takeover of the godless minority or our children will be slaves in the country their forefathers died for.
    To all those who had the balls to go to this meeting and stand up to these traitors, I salute you. God bless America!

  6. Why the hell are AMERICANS required to live in a certain way? If you want to live like your great grandparents did, it shouldn’t be against any laws of the land.

  7. Please remember this when it’s time to vote. Don’t just automatically vote for TV nonsense.

  8. Where can you go and not be harassed? The police state of mind is alive and well in Colorado… Also, why move where there is no water?

  9. I was looking to buy 20 acres and build a home, but i guess it is against the law for an American to buy land in colorado. It is sad that they want to control us,

  10. Let live
    It should not be your business or anyone else how we live our lives…. america is so greedy and money money money
    look at Australia the Gov there even gives money to people will go off the grid to help our Earth and go green. America is so made up of Greed. We don’t come in trying to police and tell you what to do in your backyard and what you can have in it, maybe we should.

  11. Off grid living should be allowed people can build ther own septic tank . If you’re in the right spot. You can drill your own well . A shallow well 30 to 40 feet deep . I know I’ve done it. Unfairly Greg

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