County squares off with a government contractor over zoning violations 

click to enlarge The 16 trailers on county property but inside city limits are considered illegal. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The 16 trailers on county property but inside city limits are considered illegal.

Antiques and vintage shoppers can relate: That lamp or chair seemed like a real find at a garage sale. Now, it just takes up space.

The same could be true, but on a much grander scale, for 16 mobile office units sprawling over property that lies within a county enclave right in the middle of Colorado Springs.

The deteriorating mobile units, with ductwork exposed and plastic sheeting flapping in the wind, were supposed to be a good investment for the buyer but instead have become a big liability.

The trailers have occupied the property, south of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Barnes Road, for more than 18 months and, in spite of legal action taken by the county, there's no plan to get rid of them.

"The County is hopeful the company will voluntarily comply and remove the buildings," says El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose, via email.

But a year after the county filed a lawsuit to force compliance, the case still lingers.

Dumped trash has been a chronic problem around the city, but the unsightly mobile units at 4375 Date St. are entire buildings mounted on metal trailers surrounded by weeds.

Security Management Integration, Inc., of Union, Kentucky, owns the nearly half-acre lot, which it acquired out of foreclosure in March 2014.

The mobile units, purchased from Fort Carson, were moved to the property sometime before June 1, 2014, when a neighbor filed a complaint with the county.

The Independent was unable to reach any neighbors, and didn't hear back from a developer, which recently built a series of $250,000 patio homes just a block away.

After the county got no cooperation from Security Management through its administrative process, a lawsuit was filed in February to force compliance with zoning codes. If the landowner wants to store the prefabricated buildings on that parcel, he must obtain a variance of use permit, Rose says.

Another problem is that no site development plan has ever been submitted for that use, according to the county's lawsuit.

In response to the lawsuit, Security Management noted, "These are not prefabricated buildings, but one building split into 16 sections on 16 trailers being stored outside," and that they're "not permanently on the property," but rather sitting on the trailers.

Security Management describes itself on its LinkedIn page as being founded in 2005, employing 11 to 50 employees and having a specialty in computer and network security. On a company website, it says it has four employees and works out of an office in Tacoma, Washington.

According to usaspending.gov, the company has been awarded $844,204 in government contracts by the Pentagon, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other agencies from 2012 to 2015.

Former El Paso County attorney Bill Louis, who worked in the County Attorney's Office for 14 years before resigning in 2012 and now is in private practice, represents Security Management.

"He [company owner Cecil Avery] bought the property with the intention of putting the units back together and having an active business," Louis says, "but he found out the planning requirements did not make that possible."

So now, Avery has been trying to sell the units but can't find a buyer, Louis says. Meantime, he's faced with a costly chore of moving the buildings elsewhere, Louis adds, describing Avery as "a nice man [who] wants to do what's right."

Asked when the decaying buildings might be moved, Louis says, "That's a very difficult question to answer, because at this time I just don't know. I know my client doesn't want them there indefinitely."

But the outlook isn't good, considering Louis terms the case "a relatively large code enforcement problem — one that can take a substantial amount of time to solve."

"We're trying to figure out a solution to a very difficult problem," he adds.

The county wants the landowner to voluntarily remove the buildings, because while the county can use an administrative warrant process to clean up rubbish and overgrown weeds and then bill the landowner, "the county does not have the same explicit grant of authority for zoning violations," Rose says.

So the county is hoping for a court order saying the company must remove the buildings or reimburse the county for doing so, he says.

"The county certainly recognizes that the situation is not good," Rose says, "and the county will be opposed to any proposed settlement which would further delay the removal of those buildings."

But things could become more complicated after the company, which was supposed to file a report with the District Court on Dec. 30 on abatement of the violations, instead on Monday filed a motion to dismiss. The motion says the county filed the case against Security Management and Integration, Inc., but that the real owner is Security Management and Integration of Washington.

That alleged misstep, Louis notes, could "call into question the validity of the notice" filed by the county. According to website info, both companies are controlled by Avery.

Rose says Avery "clearly" received the county's notice "evidenced by the fact it has responded." He adds Louis says his client is willing to discuss a possible agreement.

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