Couple could lose third of land in Boulder
DENVER, Colorado ” Don and Susie Kirlin had lived in Boulder for four years when they bought a nearby lot with mountain views in hopes of one day building a dream home there.
“It’s one of the prettiest lots in Boulder,” Susie Kirlin said.
Twenty-three years later, the dream is slipping away: Their neighbors have added a third of the land, or more than 1,400 square feet, to their own property using the centuries-old doctrine of adverse possession.
The Kirlins say a judge’s decision to grant Richard McLean, a former Boulder mayor and former judge, and Edith Stevens nearly a third of their lot has made it impractical to build the 3,000-square-foot home they envisioned.
Bloggers, newspaper editorials and radio commentators are criticizing McLean and Stevens for filing the lawsuit that eventually gave them control of the land. Bloggers rallied more than 200 people to protest outside their home last weekend. One protester carried a sign with the couple’s names and the phrase, “World’s Worst Neighbors.”
Stevens declined to comment, since the Kirlins plan to appeal the judge’s decision.
“We don’t feel it’s appropriate to talk about the issues that will be in litigation,” she said.
The empty lot is about 200 yards from the Kirlins’ current home. The couple said they visited it every week when they and their three dogs walked to nearby trails.
Last year, when the Kirlins tried to put up a fence on the property line, McLean and his wife filed for a temporary restraining order. Then they filed a lawsuit under the doctrine of adverse possession, which says a person can gain possession of property after using it without a challenge by the owner for a certain period. In Colorado, the time frame is 18 years.
McLean and Stevens said they used part of the land for 25 years to get to their back patio.
The Kirlins said they didn’t know the other couple was trespassing on their property.
The Kirlins said they have paid taxes on the 55-foot-by-80-foot lot for 23 years, sprayed for noxious weeds on it and paid homeowners dues. They say their neighbors, whom they never met until the legal dispute began, can access their patio through their own back door or by walking on the other side of their own property.
Don Kirlin said McLean rejected his offer for Kirlin to give up five feet of his property so he would have access to the patio. “Then it became obvious he wanted to get a piece large enough to make it unbuildable,” Kirlin said.
The couple were interviewing lawyers to pursue an appeal and did not say what the main argument for a reversal would be.
The Kirlins bought the lot in 1984 for $55,000, Susie Kirlin said. She said it has been appraised recently at between $800,000 and $1 million.
When asked what they would do with the land if the judge’s decision is upheld, Susie Kirlin said, “We’re not going there yet.”
“I really do believe in the justice system,” her husband said. “This is so unjust and unfair and unethical.”
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