Snow-shoveling dispute lands in court
ASPEN – Neighbors squabbling over snow shoveling and parking at an Aspen condominium nearly came to blows in early January and brought their differences to a judge Wednesday.The hearing came against the backdrop of two opposing restraining orders filed in Pitkin County Court. Bruce Knutson, a painting contractor, had a chance to speak out against his neighbor, Douglas Wilson, a software developer. Knutson told his side of the story before Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely continued the proceedings to Feb. 21.Knutson and Wilson are neighbors on William’s Way in Aspen, and had earlier confrontations over Knutson’s early-morning snow shoveling. Knutson alleged Wilson barraged him with obscenities.When Knutson went to police for advice they told him to avoid confrontation.Knutson called Wilson “un-neighborly” over the years, and said Wilson often blocked the walking path with detritus and parked his car in Knutson’s space or in such a way that blocked the condo entry.On Jan. 5, a 10-inch snowfall saw Knutson out shoveling at 5:40 a.m. and Wilson confronted him, saying “Stop (expletive) shoveling. I’m trying to (expletive) sleep,” Wilson alleged.”That’s our time to shovel,” Knutson said in response to Attorney John VanNess’ cross-examination about whether shoveling so early wouldn’t bother his neighbors.As the snow piled up, Knutson continued to shovel. When Wilson confronted Knutson’s wife, allegedly saying, “You can expect trouble when you come home,” Knutson lost his temper, he said. Knutson allegedly chased Wilson to his front door and put a fist through a panel in the storm door.”I regretted it immediately,” Knutson said. He called the police, told them what he’d done and asked for a restraining order against Wilson.Later that evening, Knutson moved a trailer owned by Wilson out of one of his parking spaces and was shoveling out more snow when Wilson ran out of his home, started shouting and threw snow onto Knutson’s parking space, Knutson alleged.”The shovels collided,” Knutson said, and when he shoveled snow out of his parking space some landed on Wilson. “[But] I never swung the shovel at him, Knutson said.Knutson said since the incident, the two have been jockeying for parking positions.Knutson’s attorney, Mark Rubinstein, called Daniel DeWolfe, a member of the homeowner’s association, as a witness. DeWolfe detailed his own previous confrontations with Wilson. But a letter from DeWolfe to Wilson raised more questions than answers about parking designations in the subdivision.”You cannot break people’s things if they threaten and yell at you,” Fernandez-Ely told Knutson. She said that no matter how angry anyone gets, “you have to walk away.”Fernandez-Ely continued the matter to Feb. 21 and suggested the parties attempt mediation and the two men consider anger management”I don’t think anybody invited anybody over for dinner,” VanNess said of the two neighbors.