For years, Tom McGee and Steve Beisel stood side-by-side on Iron Mountain, battling Manitou Springs and the courts as they tried to develop land they owned overlooking the village.
McGee’s war with Manitou began in 1989 after he bought 99 acres stretching from city limits to the 7,131-foot summit.
He offered Manitou 90 acres and asked the city to annex the rest and extend utilities so he could develop houses. The city refused and he retaliated by building a house smack on top the mountain.
The city punished him by blocking him from carving a driveway down the mountain. Lawsuits followed.
Last year, as trial over the driveway was to start, McGee grudgingly agreed to sell Manitou his land for $1.1 million. The deal will close in July. Already there are plans to demolish the house and build trails there.
I wondered if Beisel, too, was ready to sell his 70 acres, purchased in 1996.
“Hell no,” he barked at me in his typical bravado.
Though he insists he has mellowed, Beisel remains mad at Manitou.
Like McGee, Beisel says he was the target of an illegal campaign to deny him access to city streets and prevent him from building a driveway, drilling wells, installing a septic system or building a house.
Beisel retaliated by barricading a trail that crosses his land, leading to a confrontation with then-City Councilman Marc Snyder.
Beisel said Snyder provoked
him by trespassing on a rock above his house and singing loudly at him.
Snyder denied he trespassed and accused Beisel of beating him. Beisel says he never touched Snyder.
In 2006, a jury convicted Beisel of misdemeanor assault and harassment and he served 19 days in jail. But his conviction was overturned as he wasn’t properly advised of his right to an attorney. Ultimately, charges were dismissed when Snyder declined to testify again.
Beisel says he is victim of harassment from the town and courts dating to 2001 when he blew the whistle on a night of drinking by Manitou police and an under-aged woman — the daughter of one of the cops. (They were celebrating Sgt. Russ Elliott’s promotion to state liquor cop!)
Beisel filed a complaint with the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He supplied photos of the cops and the 20-year-old woman sitting at a table with glasses of booze and beer.
Elliott was reprimanded by his new bosses at the state Revenue Department. But only the woman was charged with underage drinking. Several police officers apologized for their actions.
The photos of Elliott seemed convincing to me, but no charges were filed.
I suppose I don’t blame Beisel for distrusting government. Consider this: in 2009, shortly after he bought a century-old Rainbow Trout pond in Cascade, a state water cop showed up and ordered him to drain it. The one-acre pond was illegally diverting Fountain Creek water. It operated for a century unchallenged, but as soon as Beisel bought it, the pond was illegal.
Such a coincidence!
But Beisel is a survivor. He’s converting the trout pond to a campground.
And he’s making the best of McGee’s decision to sell.
“They did me a favor,” Beisel said. “My 70 acres is worth a lot more now, surrounded by open space.”