Steamboat Springs steamed-up over teepees

As the back-to-the-land movement has gained strength and the cost of housing has risen, the Indian tepee has been experiencing something of a renaissance in the West.

So it was inevitable, in today's not-so- wild West, that the tepee (purists spell it tipi) -- symbol of a natural, free-spirited life style -- should get tangled in red tape.

The place is Steamboat Springs, Colo., a winter resort area. It seems that members of a local estate-owners association caught sight of two tepees on the horizon, and they sounded the alarm. As a result, the tepee owners bore the brunt of a frontal attack, not by the cavalry but by the local "environmental health officer" -- better known as the county sanitarian.

The resultant "Great Tepee Flap" has been discussed at the last three meetings of the county commissioners, who finally decided that the tepee dwellers must get approval of said sanitarian and buy a $25 building permit before erecting their canvas-and-pole shelters.

But this is just the first skirmish in what could be a drawn-out engagement. County planner Dave Yamada and county attorney Dan Maus have announced their intention to draft a resolution which would require tepee dwellers to get building permits, limit their occupancy of a site to one year, and stipulate that an inspection by the sanitarian and a new building permit is necessary for each new site.

Ironically, the teppe dwellers are not modern-day nomads, but simply are using the tepees as an inexpensive form of shelter while building permanent homes nearby.

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