Kremmling residents discuss violation of town ordinances

Bernadette Graves addresses the board on town ordinance violations.
Bernadette Graves addresses the board on town ordinance violations.

Cleaning up Kremmling and enforcing town ordinances fairly and equitably has gained momentum in recent Town Board meetings. Trustees agreed with a group of very concerned citizens that there was much work to be done town wide, and that the Smith and Terwilliger properties among others were some of the sore thumbs causing concern.

In the September 5 meeting, Trustee Leo Pesch asked the board to move forward with legal counsel in term’s of properties owned by Mark Smith.

“There seems to be a blatant disregard for our laws by some of these property owners… From all of our perspective, they are breaking the law and should be held accountable” said Trustee Erik Woog who commented on the identified properties and Chief Jamie Lucas’ new focus on evenly enforcing town ordinances.

Comments on perceived violations ranged from vehicles being in the state right away to non-compliance with county permits.

“We aren’t doing anything because the lawyer says we can’t do anything,” commented Pesch. The Town of Kremmling and Smith are in legal mediation from a settlement in favor of Smith from last October in an excessive force case. During that trial he was awarded $960,000.

Also in attendance at the September 5 meeting was District 1 Commissioner Richard Cimino who confirmed that Smith has not sought county building permits for any new projects. Cimino also stated that statutorily the County has no jurisdiction to enforce codes on those who are not in compliance, and live within the city’s limits. The enforcement would fall upon town officials.

At the September 19 meeting, the discussion of the Smith properties continued when local resident Bernadette Graves addressed the board as a representative for a group attending citizens with their concerns.

“It has been disheartening for me to see what has been happening in our community, or lack of action. The code violations in our town are just atrocious,” said Graves specifically pinpointing Smith’s properties calling them an eye sore and safety hazard. “I have seen it over the last 8 months decline.”

Graves noted she lives only 50 yards from him and once when driving home she nearly hit a young child who darted from the campers and vehicles parked in the Town’s right away. “There are so many safety issues. I decided to do something as a citizen.”

Graves is currently circulating a petition and at the time of the meeting had 55 signatures. Outside of the meeting Graves shared, “The trailer park shows a clear disregard for the standards set forth by the community resulting in numerous code violations. The situation has become increasingly worse every day. We feel that it is depreciating the value of our homes…” She also noted she would like to see another property on 12th Street owned by Richard Terwilliger addressed.

Kremmling local Tim Wall also commented outside of the meeting, “Yes, I’m very supportive of the petition and would like to see how many community members are in support. Mark Smith is causing many safety issues.

Including fire hydrant blockage, road blockage, and a total easement of the street is blocked for two blocks. He is building structures without any permits or inspections, putting workers in serious situations. His residents include small children playing in refrigerators thrown upside down in the yards. So I hope to accomplish a total clean-up of Eagles Nest trailer park. I don’t care if he leaves or stays as long as he abides by the town’s rules regulations and codes. I know it’s not going to be an overnight thing but if the town sticks together we can eventually clean up Kremmling and make it presentable.”

“Most of our Town feels the board is doing nothing,” Graves said to the Board, “As citizens you owe us something… Everyone is angry with what is not being done… My friends are being ticketed for their weeds being too tall or their vehicles being parked there too long. I don’t understand what is going on. All I do know is that someone is going to be hurt or killed and we are going to have a bigger issue on our hands.” Trustee Dave Sammons returned comments to Graves. “In no way think this Board is not doing anything. We are all angry about the same things you are angry about… Unfortunately, we are stuck behind some legal things that we are trying to find a way through, but don’t think for a minute we aren’t doing anything.” Woog also commented, “We all ran on the premise of being proactive about cleaning up our community, which included the Smith property, imagine our surprise when we found out our hands were tied and that its all part of a “court managed process”.” “I have nothing against Mr. Smith personally, barely know him, I just firmly believe that the same laws are not being applied to him as they are to us,” continued Woog. “There is unequal representation.”

After the settlement, the case of Town of Kremmling vs Robert Mark Smith was mediated by a magistrate, and at this time, Smith agreed to sell his properties. They properties were appraised for over one million dollars collectively. Recently, the Town Board disputed the appraised value of the properties noting at least one cash offer for the property was substantially lower.

From the audience Paul Ohri asked, “How can a court protect someone who continues to break the law?” Ohri continued to say the properties were a health concern as well as aesthetically unappealing.

The Board then went into executive session, to receive legal advice on negotiations and strategy regarding litigation. After returning from executive session, the Board said they would be commenting officially at the next meeting on October 3, but would issue a letter to the community this week.

Editor’s note – Many attempts were made to reach out to Mark Smith for his comment, but Smith did not respond.