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Lease solves easement issue for Hotchkiss firm

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Photo by Tamie Meck Big B's in Hotchkiss was granted a six-month lease for a temporary structure partially located within a town right of way. The structure encroaches on between 15-20 square feet of utility easement.

Big B's juice and cider manufacturing facility on Fourth Street was granted a six-month lease after a temporary structure was found to be encroaching on a utility easement within the town right of way. Big B's co-owner Jeff Schwartz told the Hotchkiss council at the Nov. 10 meeting that his business is growing and the temporary Weatherport-style structure is currently being used for storage while the company designs and builds an addition on the west side of the property. Schwartz said he anticipates needing the structure for between six months and two years and that the structure could be moved quickly if an emergency arises.

A corner of the structure sits on a roughly 4-by-5 square foot section of public right of way and utility easement. Schwartz said that the boundary line on that corner of his property is "convoluted," and if he knew they were building in the right of way, he would have contacted the town immediately. Rather than move it, Schwartz said he wants to work with the town to find a solution.

Building inspector John Cavan, who discovered the encroachment, said his concern is that the structure sits on an easement and creates a liability issue. "An easement is an easement," he said. While the chances of anything going wrong or the utility company needing full access are "probably nil," it's still a possibility, said Cavan.

Town staff and trustees expressed concerns about liability and setting precedent by allowing the structure to remain, even temporarily. Trustee Wills said precedence has already been set when the town allowed two permanent structures to be built in public rights of way. In Big B's case, the structure is less of a permanent nature than the other two examples, he said. Wills did request that any agreement specify a timeframe in which the structure will be moved. "Two years sounds like too long to me," he said.

Yet another building, a shed that blocks off an alleyway, was also allowed by the town, said public works director Mike Owens. "But at some point you've got to start trying to correct them, rather than add to them."

This is public property, said Koontz. "We shouldn't add to the non-conforming list of structures on town property."

Trustees voted to lease the space to Big B's for six months, with the fee to equal the cost of having the town attorney draft the lease agreement. At the end of the six months, Schwartz and council will revisit the issue. "This will give Mr. Schwartz a viable solution to his short-term problem," said Koontz.

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