Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland - March 22, 2014

When Lee and Patricia Swisher bought nearly two acres on 1st Street adjacent to a mining operation across the
street from the city dump in 1971 they never imagined keeping horses on their property would be a problem.

Thirty three years later, on March 10, 2014, Larimer County cited the couple with four code violations
including the keeping of horses (which they have been doing for the past 30 years) on their county property.
The code enforcement action appears to be part a larger campaign organized by Loveland's Director of the
Development Services Department, Greg George, to force the elderly couple to sell their land to the City of
Loveland at a discounted price.

The county's citation  letter came, not coincidently, the same day George had scheduled a hearing before
Loveland's Planning Commission seeking permission to forcibly annex the Swisher's property into Loveland
city limits.  Larimer County informed LovelandPolitics that code enforcement is a "
complaint driven" process
and the first to complain about the Swisher's property which does have a number of old vehicles, including the
horses, was the City of Loveland.

While city staff have been asking the county to pressure the Swishers, George pretended it was the county
acting against the elderly couple in a meeting he had with them late last year.  Regarding the forcible
annexation into city limits, George stated, "
that is important to us to keep a good relationship with the county
and go ahead and proceed....
" with the forced annexation against the property owner's wishes.  In fact, the city
often fails to annex enclaves (properties surrounded by city limits) according to their county agreements and in
this case county officials confirmed the forced annexation was initiated by Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill not
the county.

The Swisher's have offered to negotiate a sale but the city doesn't appear interested in negotiations.   Instead,
the city is slowly tightening a regulatory net around the Swishers to force a bargain sale to the city.   The
acquisition through intimidation technique of using governmental authorities and regulatory discretion in a
capricious manner makes the city look like a very shrewd if not unethical buyer.

City Development Official Is Hardly Impartial

Transcripts of a June 18, 2013 meeting between Greg George and the Swishers show George stating,  "To be
honest with you, if you ever came in and wanted to redevelop it, either in the city or in the county, you would
have some real problems...."
citing the flood plain and other issues with the property.   While the Swishers
have not submitted plans to develop the property beyond its current use as storage and ranching, the comment
was clearly intended to discourage any expectations it can be sold for a higher price or kept in their family for
future development.  

In fact, the portion of the property facing 1st Street is 5 feet above the roadway and not in any flood plain or
fringe.  What George failed to disclose is the department's history of allowing development of parcels entirely
in the flood plain or flood fringe, like the massive
Waterford Apartment projects developed by former Loveland
City Councilman Don Marostica.

The Swishers have complained that since the City of Loveland acquired the land surrounding their property it
has been difficult for them to quietly enjoy the use of their property.  Pat Swisher complained to city staff last
summer in that same meeting,
"But what we find to be rather distressing is the fact that none of the weeds
and the grasses have been maintained in a safe fashion. Right now we have got cheatgrass that is about this
tall and it is dry as a bone."

According to the Swishers, the city has been a terrible neighbor.  Failing to comply with county codes to remove
weeds, inviting trespassers (especially nature photographers and unleashed dogs) and even treating the
Swisher's property as its own when looking for places to dump debris and extra snow.  According to Pat
Swisher, the city would plow the sidewalk in front of their property and push all the extra snow onto her lot
blocking the front gate impeding access to her own land,  she explained,

"So I went to the city, downtown by the railroad, I met with who was down there and he was really a smart-
aleck with me. He said, 'well it’s your obligation to move the snow and all of this on your property. I said,
“no, we are in the county'. Well he argued with me about that, I asked him to see his supervisor who I never
got so I finally left. But that is why we are not all that thrilled about working with the city because they have
never worked with us."

Why Does The City Want Their Land So Badly?

Sandwiched between larger parcels the City of Loveland acquired for open space recreation, the Swisher's
property is the largest piece of dry land between the city's
Water's Edge project and Jayhawker ponds facing
1st Street.  Access to the Jayhawker ponds (30 acres of what was formerly gravel pits) on the north side is
blocked by a single street residential development along Taft Ave. of large Southern California style duplexes
that back-up to the open space.  Now the city wants the Swisher's undeveloped property for a parking lot and
access point to the area blocked by the housing development along Taft.

Ironically, some of the new residential property owners along Taft Ave. are now joining the city's complaints
about the ranching equipment, old vehicles and horses the Swishers store on their property.  It is ironic since
the new self-described "upper-scale" town homes never completed the landscaping in the property they do
own and control.  Visible to traffic travelling on Taft Ave. south of 1st Street, the unfinished modular retaining
wall and open dirt is apparently how the development was "finished" according to one city source.

According to Pat Swisher, whose husband is suffering health problems including hearing loss, the city has been
ruthless in their attempts to acquire her property.  Days after the devastating storm last September she was
contacted by the city, not to offer assistance, but inform her the value of the property her property had gone
down as a result of the flood and she should consider selling immediately.  At the time, the Swisher's were
dealing with the mess of fencing washed onto their property from the city baseball diamonds across the street.

What Next

The Swishers are asking the city to consider a 2000 appraisal of their property for determining the "fair
market" value.  The city, on the other hand, says that because the property cannot be developed the value is
less than even the $20,000 Larimer County Assessor has placed on it.  In addition, Pat Swisher testified at the
March 10, 2014 Planning Commission hearing that she will sell the property "AS IS - WHERE IS" while the City
of Loveland provided its own terms that have so far not been negotiable.  At issue is the cost of removing the
junked vehicles, loafing sheds, storage sheds and other items accumulated over the past thirty years.  So the
city and the Swishers are not close in either terms or value.

According to testimony given during the March 10, public hearing, neither the city nor the Swishers have hired
an appraisal of the property since 2000.

Following Planning Commission approval of the annexation of the Jayhwaker Ponds into city limits along with
the Swisher's property, the Loveland City Council is expected to hear the matter on April 1, 2014 for a final
decision.  Once annexed, the City of Loveland has various options regarding both zoning and code enforcement
that will likely be applied with some force if the Swishers do not agree to sell their property following the April
1,  public hearing scheduled for next month.

Please feel to make any corrections, comments or pose questions about this story on our
news blog.
Transcript of June 2013
meeting between
Swishers and city staff

March 10, 2014
offer by Swishers to
negotiate with city and
potential scenarios they
can accept with property
Elderly Couple Fight
City Hall To Keep
Their Land
In the background (above) of Loveland's 'River's Edge' on W 1st Street lies
1.8 acres of private land the city wants for parking and access to the 33
acre Jayhawker Ponds natural area behind it.  The owners say they are
willing to negotiate but have been outraged by the city's tactics to get a
bargain price.
March 10, 2014

1. Troy Bliss, City Planner,
testifies to Planning
Commission about negotiating
to Swisher's property

2.  Patricia Swisher
to the Planning Commission