Also responsible for county’s legal costs of $104,000
By Katherine Nettles
A former Gunnison County resident who has been in conflict with Gunnison County officials over his lack of sewage disposal and wastewater treatment system was ruled last month as responsible for obtaining a new, professionally designed wastewater treatment system by next summer and for paying legal fees to Gunnison County amounting to $104,000.
David Gottorff has a cabin at Irwin townsite built in the 1960s with a well but no running water on the property. His cabin has a sink, a bathroom with a composting toilet and a tank storing gray water. Gottorff purchased the property in 2007, and the county regulations for onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) were enacted in 2014. Gottorff has refused to install the costly new system, which he maintains is unwarranted and unreasonable.
Gunnison County characterized Gottorff’s plumbing and sewage system in court filings as “a bathroom sink, a kitchen sink and a large 500-gallon plastic holding tank underneath the living room floor. Each sink is connected to a waste line that empties into the holding tank. Water flows from the sinks into the holding tank, and it drains out of the tank through another pipe that empties the water into the front yard.”
Gunnison County filed an action last October to enforce of the county’s regulations and codes with respect to the OWTS. Gottorff disputed several claims and wrote to the Crested Butte News at that time that he believed the action was retaliatory for him bringing the Green Lake Road litigation in which Gunnison County is a defendant and which is pending in federal district court. He accused county staff of perjury in seeking a protection order against him for threats he denied, such as saying, “that I had a noose for her.”
“The County has used this false claim and obtained protection order to pursue baseless litigation against me, claiming that my cabin in Irwin must have an approved OWTS standards adopted in 2014 for a cabin that was built in 1964. I have counter sued that the county’s claim is retaliation for bringing the GLR litigation and constitutes an unconstitutional and unlawful taking of my property,” he wrote.
The court determined in January 2023 that Gottorff was in violation of the county’s OWTS code, and ruled at a hearing in May that Gottorff must come into compliance with the county’s suggested set of deadlines. These timelines included a permit issued by spring of 2024 and installation in the summer of 2024.
Gottorff represented himself at the hearing in May, arguing that his system was grandfathered in, compliant and that the regulation requirements were not possible for his property. He again asserted that the county was acting in retaliation for his participation in the Green Lake lawsuit.
The court found that no evidence of retaliatory action was evident and ruled in favor of the county’s proposal. Gottorff was ruled responsible for the “reasonable fees and costs” to the county, and the county was then given 14 days to submit costs. Those were submitted on June 6 and totaled $104,750. Gottorff had 14 days to object, and when he failed to do so the court ordered on June 22 that he was responsible for the payment in full.
Gottorff is currently in the Ouray County Jail awaiting sentencing on another matter where a jury found him guilty of several felonies related to stalking and menacing charges. His sentencing in that case is scheduled for August 7.