The Land Grab: What Would You Do?

by Osman Parvez

A friend and I had a good discussion this morning over breakfast at Lucile's (highly recommended by the way). Let's say you found yourself in the position of the Boulder couple who won judgement of their neighbor's land using adverse possession. Little did you expect to draw the ire of the community, much less the attention of the nation. Now what?

When most people act, they usually think they're doing the right thing. Although it may seem reprehensible to most of us, when Richard Mclean and Edith Stevens took legal action against their neighbor they more than likely felt like they were doing the right thing too.

They won the land but now their reputation in the community is damaged and on a downward trajectory. The clamor isn't dying down and even people they consider friends are turning private letters over to the media. Although their actions may have been legal, it's obvious that most of us think the land was taken from the rightful owner.

Rarely is it easy to admit you made a mistake. It must be even harder when everything is so public. It's unrealistic to expect that kind of turn-around. But I do think the right (and in the end, simplest) course of action is to return the land in exchange for a right-of-way that gives backyard access. As part of that, the parties should provide a positively worded joint statement to the media and agree to no further comments on the issue. It's the only way I see for Mclean and Stevens to do the right thing and save face in the community.

They won a legal battle over adverse possession but the unintended result is a community hostile to their presence. Boulder is a vibrant and wonderful place to live. It's the relationships we have that create a sense of community. It's worth a lot more than a little patch of land.

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