Business, neighbors ready for showdown
By BILL VOGRIN THE GAZETTE
For nine years, residents of Chaparral Road have been fighting to stop neighbors Dana and Sheryl Glasgow from operating a landscaping and snow-removal business out of their home. Today it’s high noon on Chaparral — a rustic island of unincorporated county land and 5-acre ranchettes surrounded by the rooftops of Colorado Springs near Barnes Road and Powers Boulevard. The neighbors expect to settle their differences in a showdown before the El Paso County Commission during an afternoon work session in the ongoing efforts to revise county land-use regulations. Part of the discussion is expected to focus on how to define “agricultural land” in the new zoning codes. It’s important because a new definition could, once and for all, decide the fate of the Glasgows’ Turf Master Industries business operations, which does commercial landscaping and snow removal. The business employs about 20 people. The definition also could affect dozens of similar businesses operating from residential areas in the county. Emerson “Charlie” Bow-
man and other residents of Chaparral fear that the Glasgows’ attorney will persuade the county to redefine their neighborhood’s agricultural zone to let Turf Master remain, and undermine eight years of expensive legal victories won by the County Attorney’s Office. “We are really upset about it,” Bowman said. “We want the current zoning enforced.” The Glasgows are nervous, too, because County Attorney Bill Louis has promised to move aggressively against them and force them to relocate Turf Master or face a possible contempt-of-court citation, if the five-member commission makes it clear it opposes a change in the zone. “We are just about at the limit of our patience with the Glasgows,” Louis said. The fight started in 1997, before the Glasgows bought their 5-acre parcel. “They knew the neighbors were opposed, but they went ahead and bought the property and pressed on with their landscaping business,” said Bowman, who has lived across the road since 1972. Before their purchase, the Glasgows wrote the El Paso County planning department to request a variance to the land’s agricultural zoning to allow the landscaping and snow-removal business. Sheryl Glasgow said they withdrew the request when planners told them it would not be approved due to neighborhood opposition. Regardless, the Glasgows bought the land and, in 2000, moved their business to Chaparral. Then they appealed their case to the El Paso County Commission. They lost, but Turf Master kept going and growing. In addition to the existing barn, there is a greenhouse, a long “pole barn” to shelter a dozen trucks and equipment — mowers, snow blades and trailers and a large office/warehouse. And, in the front yard, there’s a pink portable toilet, lit at night by a spotlight. It’s a symbol of how the Glasgows feel toward neighbors, especially Bowman. “That is my only way of keeping my sense of humor and not doing something illegal against them,” Glasgow said. She is furious at Bowman for opposing their use of the land, which, she said, previously housed a part-time veterinary business. “He spies on us and has secret meetings against us with our neighbors,” Glasgow said. “He has turned all our neighbors against us.” She accused Bowman of using his political connections — he is active in the Republican Party — to influence the actions taken against her. After commissioners rejected their appeal, the county sued the Glasgows in September 2001 to shut them down. District Court Judge David Gilbert ruled that landscaping and snow removal were not permitted in the zone. The Glasgows appealed and in September 2005 the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned part of Gilbert’s ruling that the Glasgow’s wholesale nursery was illegal. But the appeals court agreed with Gilbert’s finding that the Glasgows’ landscaping and snow removal are their primary businesses, not the nursery. All equipment and employees related to the landscaping and snow removal were ordered removed. Neighbors waited for the business operations to cease. “That was eight months ago,” Bowman said. “The court orders have not yet been enforced. Why not?” It’s a question County Commissioner Douglas Bruce has said wants answered. “We haven’t been cavalier in our approach to this problem,” Louis said, explaining that the appeals court decision didn’t reach his office until late November. Further, the original court order granted the Glasgows 90 days to come into compliance. “Giving people 90 days to wrap up their business affairs or seek other ways to come into compliance is prudent, I think,” Louis said. And since the county was in the process of rewriting the zoning codes, the Glasgows decided to use their time trying to get a definition that would allow them to stay. That’s what will be considered at today’s work session. “We’re trying to fix this,” said Murray Weiner, attorney for the Glasgows. If they fail, Sheryl Glasgow promised to punish her neighbors by finding a legal, but annoying, business to operate from the property. “We’ve spent $80,000 in legal fees alone,” she said. “We’ve put everything we have into trying to save our business here. We can’t even afford to finish siding our house. “If I have to get my business out of here, I will find the most god-awful legal business to put in here and drive them crazy. A halfway house has crossed my mind.” Tell me about your neighborhood: 636-0193 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DAVID BITTON, THE GAZETTE - Emerson “Charlie” Bowman on his property Wednesday on Chaparral Road, across the street from Turf Master Industries. Bowman and others have been fighting the home business.