A couple may lose their dream home to eminent domain because they use an ATV to reach their rustic cabin.
The Summit County, Colorado, commissioners voted to seize 10 acres of land Ceil and Andy Barrie own to use as open space in October after learning the couple used a motorized vehicle on the property.
“I feel like I can’t trust my government,” Andy Barrie told the Associated Press.
The Barries bought the century old Colorado cabin on a mining claim near the ski town of Breckenridge in 2011. The cabin is 1.2 miles from the nearest road, so the couple uses an ATV to reach it.
People have apparently been using ATVs, snowmobiles, to reach the cabin for years. The all-terrain vehicle the Barries currently use came with the cabin.
Forest Service and County Try to Seize Land
The Barries’ troubles began when the US Forest Service told them they couldn’t use a motorized vehicle to reach the property. Their acreage is surrounded by the White River National Forest.
In October, county officials issued a report that stated “public motorized access” to the property threatened the alpine tundra and the habitat for the lynx, an endangered species. The Barries only use their ATV and don’t allow other ATVs on the property. County commissioners agreed with the report and voted on Oct. 25, 2013, to seize the property.
“People in this community are very intent on preserving the back country,” Summit County Attorney Jeff Huntley said. Huntley said the county only seized the property because the Barries refused to stop using the ATV.
The Barries are also committed to preserving the back county. They told the Associated Press that they plan to donate some of their property to conservation groups and they would be willing to tear down the cabin. The cabin is apparently in violation of zoning laws because a previous owner expanded it without a permit.
Access is the Issue
The Barries insist that they have a legal right of way to the property. The county and the Forest Service insist that they do not.
The couple is preparing a legal challenge to the county’s action. Such a challenge might be tough, because in 2005 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a similar seizure of land in Telluride was constitutional.
Governments do have the right to seize property for parks and recreational use, attorney and eminent domain expert Dana Berliner told the Associated Press. Officials in Washington Township, Ohio, did use eminent domain to seize part of a family’s land for a bicycle path, Off the Grid News reported last year.
“It’s not that you can’t do it, but they don’t do it much,” Berliner said. “There’s typically other ways of doing open space than just taking land.”