EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - El Paso County officials announced Monday that the owner of land on which a homeless camp is established must evict the campers by April 30.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 has been following the situation regarding the camp along Las Vegas Street, just outside the Colorado Springs city limits, behind Rocky Top Resources.
A possible complication in the matter, county officials said, is that Rocky Top's owner, Fred Martin, has yet to decide if he'll follow through on the eviction process.
According to Craig Dossey, the county's executive director for planning and development, all interested parties, including Martin, the Sheriff's Office and a homeless advocacy group, Blackbird Outreach, met last week to update the situation and provide Martin with the information he needs to make a decision.
Dossey said 57 people currently occupy the camp, and Martin must serve eviction notices to each camper individually.
If the campers remain on the property after the deadline, they can be cited for trespassing and Martin can be cited for zoning violations.
As KRDO NewsChannel 13 previously reported, the campers can't be evicted in a routine fashion by deputies because Martin previously gave the campers permission to stay on the property, thereby creating a landlord/tenant relationship that can be dissolved only through the courts.
However, Dossey said it's possible that at some point, Martin could legally establish a homeless camp on the property, which would be the first of its kind in El Paso County.
"He has to evict the campers and that legally re-sets the property," he said. "Then he can apply for an appropriately scaled homeless camp. Even though it's private property, the scale of use is going to be a huge factor."
But before that can happen, Martin must first address a rezoning issue for his business and two zoning violations related to the camp, then devise a plan for operating the camp that requires approval by county officials.
Martin and Blackbird Outreach spokesman Tryg Bundgaard declined interview requests Monday but Bundgaard said he's pleased about the possible establishment of a legal homeless camp.
One homeless camp resident who calls himself "Danger Mouse," said he has spoken with Martin and Bundgaard.
"Fred's intention is not to evict campers from this spot," he said. "He does not want us leaving."
Danger Mouse's wife, Chasta Rogers, is grateful to Martin for allowing homeless people to stay on the property.
"Mr. Martin is a wonderful man," she said. "He's one of the few that truly cares about people. I don't want to cause trouble for him. If he wants us gone, I'll leave."
Dossey said county officials are currently researching the idea of establishing a series of smaller homeless camps -- an idea that has been virtually rejected by elected leaders, law enforcement agencies and even some homeless advocates.