Round One goes to the Van Wormers. But Round Two is already costing them cash.
Cynthia and Thomas Van Wormer convinced the El Paso County Commission on Thursday to wink at state laws and county ordinances and let them keep their Rocky Mountain Bird Farm & Pet Supply in their Woodmoor home.
It didn’t bother three members of the commission — Wayne Williams, Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey — that the business violates state and county rules for home businesses and bird breeding.
Williams said if neighbors can’t hear or smell the birds, then the government should butt out. I call the policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Smell.”
The three commissioners’ attitude incensed the Woodmoor Improvement Association, which is the homeowners association for the 3,000-home community in the woods east of Monument.
WIA President Chuck Maher called the commissioners gutless and said he wished he hadn’t voted for them. And he vowed the WIA would do what the commission didn’t have the spine to do.
“We will enforce our covenants,” Maher said, vowing to use all means necessary including asking a judge for a restraining order to evict the business from the home.
In fact, the wheels of HOA justice already are turning.
On Friday, the WIA won a court decision against the Van Wormers over legal fees associated with fighting a restraining order the couple brought against the association in October.
The WIA submitted fees of about $1,600 in that case.
And the couple now is liable for daily fines stemming from their home business.
At a November WIA board meeting, the couple was found to be in violation of two covenants. Board members described it as a tense meeting in which Cynthia Van Wormer shouted and used obscenities in addressing the board and neighbors.
It fined them $50 for barking dog violations and $50 for having an unapproved home business, according to WIA attorney Debra Oppenheimer.
Both fines were suspended to let the couple remedy the violations. When their two wolf hybrids were shipped to a sanctuary in California late last month, they avoided the first fine.
But Oppenheimer said the home business continues to operate and the $50 fine will be reinstated along with a $25 daily fine that will accrue until the business is gone. The daily fine took effect Dec. 31, meaning the couple now owes $250 and counting!
I tried to talk to the Van Wormers about all this.
Cynthia Van Wormer called the commission’s decision “fair” but declined to tell me her next move. Instead, she attacked me, accusing me of slanting my original column against them.
Cynthia got very angry when I asked her about her testimony to the commission in which she said only about 25 percent of her 1883-square-foot home is dedicated to the business.
I reminded her that she told me her entire basement — about 1,000 square feet — is filled with 50 birds and she had put her living room and dining room furniture in storage to accomodate another 48 birds. That sounded like far more than 25 percent — the legal limit — to me.
Thomas and their business partner, Shawn Rapley, also criticized me and accused me of being unfair in my portrayal of them.