Judge dismisses Brown v. Chaffee with prejudice

‘Plaintiff’s position is not supported by the record’

U.S. District Judge Regina Rodriguez ruled in favor of Chaffee County in a private property rights lawsuit brought against the County by Dr. Alison Brown in 2019.

Rodriguez’ court order, dated June 23, granted a summary judgment in favor of the Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners, thereby dismissing Brown’s lawsuit.

The Court also issued a final judgment ordering that Brown’s “remaining claim and this case are dismissed with prejudice” and permitting the County to recover costs associated with the lawsuit.

The ruling can be appealed, but since the case was dismissed with prejudice, Dr. Brown is prohibited from filing the same action again in the future.

County Commissioner and Board Chairman Greg Felt commented, “While the County is of course pleased with the Court’s ruling and outcome in the case, I’m saddened that this unsupported case was even filed since it required a significant amount of county resources to defend – time and resources that could have been devoted to the numerous other pressing issues facing the County.”

A statement issued by Chaffee County reads, “The final judgment reinforced the County’s position that it fairly and consistently interpreted and applied the requirements of the county Land Use Code, state statute, and other laws in consideration of Dr. Brown’s land use proposals.

“The County legal department invested over 430 hours in defense of the case, in addition to substantial time required of staff and elected officials for depositions and related preparation. Additionally, the County engaged outside counsel for assistance in the defense proceedings.”

Dr. Brown declined to comment on the ruling, and her attorney, Charles Cain of Austin, Texas, has not responded to a request for comment.

Brown’s lawsuit stemmed from her use of her property as a base for foxhunting activities, including keeping a pack of approximately 30 foxhounds on the 37-acre parcel just north of Salida. Her original complaint against the County, dated March 28, 2019, asserts, “Chaffee County deprived Dr. Brown of vested property rights in violation of constitutional protections.”

In her dismissal of the case, Judge Rodriguez writes, “Brown has not established that she had a vested property interest in the right to conduct her intended activities on her land without undergoing the necessary Limited Impact Review.”

The Chaffee County Land Use Code requires County approval for certain land uses – including multi-family dwellings, kennels and outfitting facilities – through a Limited Impact Review process.

As stated in Rodriguez’ ruling, Brown had originally proposed to build a multi-family dwelling on her property but “adjusted her plans to construct … a single-family dwelling,” which does not require a Limited Impact Review.

In reviewing the “factual background” of the case, Rodriguez notes that County Planning Manager Jon Roorda approved a building permit for a single-family dwelling.

Plaintiff Brown claims the approval of her single-family dwelling “constituted a representation that she could conduct her other activities on her land without a Limited Impact Review,” writes Rodriguez. “However, Plaintiff’s position is not supported by the record.”

Brown’s complaint also alleges, “The conduct of Chaffee County … rendered Dr. Brown homeless for a period of approximately five months … . She suffered severe emotional and physical distress. She suffered substantial economic harm … .”

Brown’s claim of homelessness is based on the County’s January 2018 denial of a certificate of occupancy for her newly constructed residence due to unresolved Land Use Code violations involving the kennel and outfitting facilities.

In spite of the allegations in Brown’s complaint, in 2018 and 2019 Brown purchased five properties in Fremont County, including at least two residences, as well as a 40-acre parcel adjoining her 37-acre property in Chaffee County.

The statement issued by the County notes that Brown made additional claims that were dismissed in 2020.

As a candidate for Chaffee County Commissioner, Brown has referenced her legal complaints against the County as part of “Ethics” and “Right to Farm and Ranch” planks in her campaign platform.

Brown first announced her intention to run for Chaffee County Commissioner via Ark Valley Voice, LLC, a media company that she established in November 2017 and for which she is listed as the sole agent/owner.

Of three confirmed county commissioner candidates, only Alison Brown was included in an Ark Valley Voice article about “Candidates for Chaffee BOCC,” which posted June 22, one day before Judge Rodriguez dismissed Brown’s case.

In that article, Brown alleges “extreme over-regulation” by “local government officials,” accuses the County of “targeting” her and claims that her lawsuit “will shed daylight on some of the egregious practices that Chaffee has taken against its citizens.”

The light of Judge Rodriguez’ jurisprudence has revealed, “The plaintiff’s position is not supported by the record.”

Joe Stone