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Boulder County illegal home put animals at risk, took county nearly two years to resolve issues

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Posted at 9:45 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 15:02:03-04

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- A Boulder County property owner built a house without a permit, then after multiple complaints by neighbors and notices from the county, tore it down — also without a permit. And the county let all of it happen over a span of two years without levying a single fine.

Nico Novelli lives next door to the property located at 103 Cooperdale Lane. Novelli rescues animals and nurses them back to health at his home in Coal Creek Canyon.

“There’s one of my puppies so you can see how close the insulation is,” Novelli said while recording cell phone video of the debris that blew over onto his property. “If he ingested that, glass is going to cut his intestines.”

To understand how the insulation made it onto his property, we need to go back nearly two years.

“It was a nice, empty field for a while until my neighbor decided to illegally build the house,” Novelli said.

Records show Novelli sent his first email to Boulder County about the illegal house in August 2019. He took pictures of the building and all the mess that came with it. It led to the county sending numerous violations to the property owners for “building without a permit” and “camping on the property.”

“They haven’t followed up on one of the violation notices,” Novelli said.

Jesse Rounds, Boulder County's planning manager for code compliance, said the county’s goal is to achieve compliance.

“We try to resolve the problem as opposed to resorting to fines,” he said.

Eventually, the property owner did have the building torn down, again without the proper permits. But photos show they left all the debris and trash behind, including large piles of insulation that Novelli said blew over into his yard for months.

“My tortoise (was) in the yard and less than a foot away from him is a big piece of insulation that would kill him. The insulation is spun glass,” he said.

While Novelli is worried about his animals, he’s not the only one dealing with the mess.

“They just left all their trash to blow on our properties,” neighbor Julie Young said.

Young said she moved to Coal Creek Canyon for the tranquility, not to pick up other people’s trash.

“You can see how beautiful it is,” she said. “I would have like to see the county make sure they cleaned up their mess.”

Rounds said he doesn’t believe the county’s actions send a message that people can build something illegally in Boulder County and get away with it.

“Because I think the result here is that there’s no structure there anymore,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it took as long as it did."

The property owners who built that illegal structure also own a restaurant across the street called the Last Stand Tavern in Golden.

Restaurant owners Thomas and Annette Lambeth are the ones who received the violation notices from the county.

Denver7 Investigates sent multiple emails to the family and stopped by the restaurant, but an employee said the owners weren’t around.

In an email to Denver7 Investigates, Annette Lambeth said they let a homeless friend camp on the vacant property, but had no idea a home was being built and as soon as they found out about it, they had the home removed.

But it still took the county more than two years to resolve the issue.

“The county could have stopped this before the insulation even showed up on the property,” Novelli said.

Below, you can find the full statement from the Lambeths:

“We had a friend who was homeless and needed a place to live. We allowed our friend to park a camper on our vacant property on a temporary basis until alternative housing could be found. We were unaware that small structures were built on the property. When we became aware, we asked them to vacant (sic) the property immediately and remove the structures that were built. All permits were filed, paid for, inspected, and now closed.”