Owning a piece of land has always guaranteed that you’re free to do whatever you chose on your property (so long as it doesn’t bother your neighbors too much). Recently, local legislators have tried to limit what you’re able to do on your land – including camping while building a permanent house. Know your rights at a state and local level to ensure you’re able to use your property as you see fit.
Costilla County in Colorado was the first area in the state to be settled by European-Americans due to its mild climate and striking views. These days, the weather and mountains continue to be a draw – although the relatively inexpensive property values appeal to those who live off-grid. In recent years an estimated 800 homesteaders have relocated to the county, which had a population of only 3,500 in 2010.
Concerned that homesteaders were constructing homes that weren’t up to building codes, county zoning officials proposed regulations mandating that electric, water and septic be installed on a property before a building permit could be issued – eliminating the potential for modern homesteader amenities like solar or wind collection or composting or incinerating toilets.
Uproar from local residents forced the Costilla County to back down from these intrusive regulations, but officials maintain the requirement that landowners obtain a permit if they camp on their property for more than 14 days in a year. Despite this requirement, the county has refused to issue any further 90-day camping permits, necessitating creative measures from those who are living in a tent or RV while they build their main home – like moving to a neighbor’s parcel every few weeks.
It’s hard to fight these sort of laws and regulations, as zoning and property boards often aren’t elected officials and are able to enact codes without oversight from elected representatives. Ultimately, it’s up to you to do your due diligence to ensure you’re able to make use of your property just as you wish.