October 17, 2012
Signs along a fence advertise a neighborhood feud: “No Trespassing” and “Private Property.”
Next I noticed these odd signs: “Civility Welcome Zone” and “No F-Bomb.”
Then I saw a more ominous sign: “Keep Our Hood Threat Free” along with the phone number to El Paso County’s Department of Human Services for child abuse reports.
Finally, there’s this puzzling sign: “Neighbor Mt. 5:38.” It refers to the New Testament Gospel of St. Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus says: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth . . .”
What the heck is going on in Villa Loma neighborhood?
To find out, I called the neighbors on either side of the fence.
On one side, Debhra Kinkennon says she and her husband, Sam, put up “No Trespassing” signs to keep neighbor Rick Schulte, 70, out of their yard.
After they moved into their home on Inspiration Drive in 2004, Kinkennon said they discovered Schulte seemed to feel ownership of their yard.
“He was trimming our trees and bushes,” Debhra Kinkennon said. “We told him to leave them alone.”
And, she said, when Schulte walked the neighborhood, he liked to cut across the Kinkennon lawn to reach his back yard. And he complained when they parked their boat in their driveway, blocking his path.
“He’s just a troublesome old man,” Kinkennon said. “He needs to just leave everybody alone and mind his own business.”
Of course, Schulte has a completely different view of the conflict, which he passionately describes as a “war” that is “never going to end.”
Schulte said the Kinkennons don’t like him because he trapped neighborhood squirrels. (In fact, I wrote about Schulte and his squirrels in 2007.)
“They were chewing up my corn,” Schulte said. “I was taking them out east and releasing them. They are like a burrito to a hungry fox or coyote. I was accomplishing a service for the wildlife.
“But Debbie said she loved wildlife. She feeds them. She said I’m a cruel person. I am victimizing innocent little squirrels.”
A series of confrontations ensued over Schulte’s wandering and tree trimming and the Kinkennons’ home daycare center, race car and motorcycle. The conflict climaxed in 2010 when the Kinkennons called the police, accusing Schulte of trespassing. He was cited by police and requested mediation as a way to resolve the misdemeanor summons.
But both sides say mediation was a failure.
Kinkennon claims Schulte demanded the neighbors wave at him and greet him when they see him.
“He wants to control us,” she said.
Schulte said he simply wants his neighbors to be friendly.
Eventually, Schulte pleaded guilty, though he denies doing anything wrong. He was shocked at being ordered to take conflict resolution classes as part of his sentence and six months probation.
But that didn’t end the problems.
Schulte believes Kinkennon called the city’s Code Enforcement officers on his trashy back yard.
So he retaliated by putting up a new fence separating the property along their driveways.
And he started erecting his own signs, facing their yard and designed to embarrass them, including a “Neighborhood Watch” sign painted with the number of the child abuse agency.
“I decided I would pull a dirty trick on them,” Schulte said. “I’m really ashamed of myself of this whole thing.”
He added the civility zone and f-bomb signs and the bizarre “eye for an eye” reference, which he insists is not threatening, just a statement the neighbors are enemies.
Police warned the Kinkennons not to take the signs down since they are Schulte’s property. So they try to hide the signs with trash cans.
“We ignore him,” Kinkennon said. “We don’t talk to him. We don’t associate with him. We could care less.
“We just want him to leave us the hell alone.”
Schulte has a more intense view of things.
“It’s a war,” he said. “It’s never going to end. Nothing can be done.
“As much as I regret all this, as much as I’d like to see it all change, it won’t.”
And there they sit.
This kind of stuff makes me sad. I don’t know if their relationship can be salvaged. But I have a suggestion: Both should take down their signs.
They are ugly graffiti and mar the entire neighborhood.
Do they really need to advertise their dispute? It accomplishes nothing.
And taking them down would be a gesture of good will.