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Victory: County Backs Down, Won’t Chase Off-Gridders From Land

Image source: CPR News

Image source: CPR News

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.

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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.”

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

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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.

What is your reaction to the story? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. i may be of help to these ‘off-gridders’. If anyone can get me in contact with them i believe i have help for their legal situation.

    • Does anyone have a legal answer ? How can they say you need a septic system if you have no water to flush the toilet. At 9000+ elevation a well’s expense is currently out of my financial condition, since I am retired living on S.S. Plus when we got our building permit and built there was no septic regulation. Does that make it a grand-fathered in situation ? I feel this is now a financial shakedown. $400. for a septic permit with no water to flush it ? ??? Plus we never spent one night in our cabin as its not close to being finished we live 4 hours away in the Denver area. I need to finish waterproofing the outside so it doesn’t get ruined from the weather and get held-up by the county. If there is no legal remedy adios Costilla.
      Since I am retired I will write my book and give Costilla County much publicity regarding what their doing to us landowners, and especially each official trying to violate my constitutional rights to – “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence.[1] The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect. (NOT TO DESTROY ! !!)
      Don’t get mad get even! like Clint Eastwood on January 30th, 1986, a local Carmel, California newspaper first announced the news: Clint Eastwood was running for mayor — salary, $200 a month!

      Like Dirty Harry, he was fighting bureaucracy, waging a war on bylaws in his adopted hometown of Carmel. His campaign certainly made the media’s day but when he got a whopping 72% of the poll,

      Carmel. “We got rid of quite a lot of punitive attitudes on the council and helped people get things done,” Run them out of office, run for office, start a petition, join a class action laws suit. Like Dirty Harry run them out of their jobs. Get rid of their paychecks, and you get rid of them. Contact every talk show you can, post articles on the internet, etc. etc.

  2. I think the only reason the county backed down was because of all of the publicity.
    Wait and see. When it’s out of the news, they will be back.

  3. As a long time resident of Costilla County (who camped on my land years ago, while building my house), I would love to see the county stop harassing the people who want to come here and lead a simple life in the open spaces….I would also love to see the county (and the new homesteaders) come down a LOT HARDER on the criminal element moving into the same area…. not the pot growers, I am talking about meth-cookers, pill-sellers, murderers and pedophiles!!!!!! The current sherriff’s dept is hopelessley understaffed to deal with this- and there is a reason that officials go out there heavily armed- it really IS dangerous!

  4. I was just in San Luis in Costilla County today, because we are buying 80 acres of land just outside of San Acacio.Costilla County is completely against anyone doing what they want with their own property. You own the property but they tell you what you can and cannot do on it. Sorry thats crap, its none of there business unless you are breaking the law. I have a copy of their so called permit list and the costs right here I was going to upload for everyone to see. They also say that you have to get a permit to occupy your own land and renew it every year. I am trying to build a peaceful off-grid community with some friends and family, and now they are saying we can only put one small cabin on our 80 acres. This is BS, some stupid county law they passed in 2013 just so they can try to control things. Believe me when I say they have a fight coming.

  5. They would have much harder time picking on homesteaders if they are fighting fires in town. Burn their offices. Revolt!

  6. This is another example of the “peoples government” overstepping their authority. I agree that we don’t want off gridders to live in filthy unhealthy condition. So, basic sewage and trash disposal is a must.

    Accomplishing these goals does not always have to be the traditional utility hookup from the government. Compost toilets and septic tanks and drain fields have long been recognized as a form of proper human waste disposal.

    With some internet research valid data could be presented to the government authority for them to consider. Changing attitudes is not done over night, but rather with a constraint steam of facts to defend your view points.

    Water wars are a valid issue for both sides that needs a middle ground solution. If the governments concern is the amount of water being collected on the land and used by the off gridders; is more than their water ration should be. Measure that amount of water that is collected and used. Compare what is collect and used to what the government thinks is the correct ration of water for the land parcel. How far apart are the numbers? Only then can you assign the significance level to the problem.

    Uniting large groups of off gridders with a common goal to peacefully co-exist with the long time residents and their government seems to be a logical first step. The government has already made the first offensive move to limit what a free American can do on his own land.

  7. Why does it matter if someone wants to live in an RV LET THEM! GEEEEEES. How has the govt’s arm become so long? Why does Uncle Sam, (or my Aunt Mary for that matter) get to dictate what we do on our own land as long as we dont dam up the rivers to prevent others downstream from equal use, or otherwise trash up the place so it becomes a public health hazard….WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

    The only reason people care is bc they dont like the “look” of RVs, and they think property values will plummet, or they think RVers are vagabonds. Tough shit what they think. The only law they should mandate is 1. Dont dam up the water, 2. Keep your surroundings clean, 3. Properly remove and dispose of waste. THEN send out the health Inspector on a weekly basis (a few new jobs just created) to ensure compliance and heap outlandish fines on anyone caught not disposing of waste etc. Heck they could actually help these people by buolding state public dump stations every so many miles or district. Change is coming! People cant afford to live anymore. The local govts are regulating people out of their homes. Life has become too “compliance” demanding and homelessness is the result. These people have a right to live same as anyone else. MAKE ROOM FOR THEM OR THEY WILL END UP UNDER YOUR CITY BRIDGE!

    Dang this whole tjibg irtitates me. Live and let live!

  8. My dreams are shattered! I have been researching property, planning my off grid cabin floor plans and researching alternative utilities. My plans are only for a weekend get-a-way. I only recently started researching the county ordnances and I am shocked at this bull shit about camping permits even if you own the property. Time to start voting people out of office and get this ordnance removed!

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