In the mountains outside of Denver, Colorado, Clem Smith was looking to accomplish his dream.
After being homeless for 6 years, Smith inherited $214,000, and set about buying his own property and eventually building a house. The government then stepped in and starting fining him for having a motor home and storage container on his own property. Now Smith faces possible seizure of his property and eviction from his own land.
After a neighbor complained about the RV, shipping container and trash, Smith was cited for code violations.
The complaint alleges that he’s allowing the outdoor storage of those items on vacant land and that he was going to allow people to live in the shipping container.
Smith said that’s hogwash.
“I believe the person that complained came in (the shipping container) and saw a dresser and thought people were going to try to live here,” he said.
Smith said, in reality, the dresser is his “workbench” and he uses it to store tools and paperwork.
Jeanie Rossillon, Jefferson County’s director of development and transportation, said that under existing code, the RV is considered an accessory and cannot be parked on the property without a house. Ditto for the shipping container.
Smith says he will build one, but needs more time. In the meantime, he wants to live in his RV and leave it parked on his property.
“I own this property,” he told Denver7, with emotion welling up in his voice. “I paid for it in cash. It’s all mine. I should be able to live on it for a certain amount of time, while I’m surveying, engineering or planning.”
Smith says he has very little money left to move everything.
He worries that he’ll end up being homeless again and that he’ll have to park his RV at Walmart.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” he added, “I’ve been on the homeless circuit for several years and everybody at the campgrounds and at Walmart, is hoping to get a piece of property and build their own home.”
Denver7 checked and found that there have been similar issues in other counties.
Smith is beyond frustrated.
“I’ve got nowhere to take a back hoe, nowhere to take my dump truck, nowhere to take my shipping container,” he said. “I’m going to have to pay for storage for all that. I don’t even know where to take it.”
“I’m going to be broke conforming to their wishes,” he told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.
“I’ve been building really nice houses for people my whole life. I want to build my own really nice house,” Smith said while choking up.
After spending several thousand dollars on road and septic permits, Smith received a citation after a neighbor complained about the RV and trash.
Under Jefferson County zoning codes, the storage container and RV are considered “accessories” unless a home is actually being built.