The ruling came after the City of Colorado Springs sued the artist's widow, Hedwig Kempf, in order to force the family to comply with city zoning codes, which preclude most commercial activity in the high-end residential area.
After the artist commited suicide six years ago, his daughter Lottie Kempf sought higher visibility for her father's work, using the home as an appointment-only gallery that she promoted on the Internet, in brochures and elsewhere.
Though the judge's order means much of that activity will have to stop, Kempf says she's not giving up. "I'm going to appeal this," said Kempf, who argued that her father's commercial activity predates both the city's annexation of the area and city zoning.
"Starr always had a business here and sold his work from here," she added. "He started building the house in 1948 and used his foundry and shop to make ornamental gates for businesses and individuals all over town."
The Kempf estate had initially worked with the city on a compromise that would have allowed some limited use of the property as a gallery, but Kempf said the requirements, for parking and other amenities, were too onerous.
Representing herself in court hearings, Kempf also argued that zoning does not apply to the Kempf estate because she has obtained a "land patent," a federal land guarantee that some claim trumps local zoning ordinances.
In handing down his ruling, Colt rejected that argument, claiming that local courts, and zoning, do indeed have jurisdiction over local land use, land patent or no.
In taking the Kempfs to court, the city essentially sided with neighbors of the late artist who complain of dramatic increases in sightseer traffic as the family began promoting the home in recent years.
"There has been a big change in the way the property is being operated after [Starr Kempf] died in 1995," said Thomas Marrese, a senior attorney for the city. In promoting the late artist's work, he said, the family has increasingly "commercialized" the property, even advertising the home as a potential site for conferences.
"That's very different from just making sculptures in your home," he said. "We have no problem with the sculptures that are there. It's the commercialization of the property that is the problem."
Roughly a dozen neighbors of the Kempfs who showed up at last week's court hearing applauded the judge's ruling. "We've all seen the drastic impact of this, the noise, the traffic," said Craig Reed, a resident of 2051 Pine Grove St., a few doors down from the Kempf estate. "But there's also the precedent. If they were allowed to do this, it would throw zoning out the window."
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