by Brian Orr
GARDNER- Gary Lensky, known to most everyone as Baba, has been butting heads with people and county departments ever since he won a court verdict in 2001 on a disputed 22 acres next to his compound in Gardner. The property, widely acknowledged to have been “No-Man’s Land” since the 1920s, has a large sandy arroyo running right through the middle of it.
Running alongside Baba’s compound, next to his prayer hall, is an alleyway. Huerfano County considers this to be a county road.
Baba tells of people driving through the alley to break out the windows of his prayer hall and to urinate on the building. Since the road lays on his claimed property, he sought to fence it off to create a defensive space. The problem here is, no one can lay claim to county land. When Baba put in posts prior to fencing it, the County Road and Bridge Department, personally directed by Commissioner Roger Cain, pulled one out. Four days later, on Nov. 18, the Road and Bridge crew came back for the final post, and this time Huerfano Sheriff’s Officers were on hand.
Two of Baba’s roommates ran back to the house and grabbed a video camera. The officers told them to stop, and not knowing why they ran or what they grabbed, threw them both down and handcuffed them briefly before sorting matters out (See video link on our website). The posts were pulled out.
Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman, when asked why he had it in for Baba, smiled and shook his head. “I don’t hate Mr. Lensky,” he said. “I don’t know the man.” He has tried to stay out of the fray as much as possible, stating “This is a civil issue. This has nothing to do with his religion. I cannot- will not get involved.”
When asked if his deputies had told Baba to get off the property, Newman said he had officers tell Baba to remove stacked paint cans from a a disputed piece of property that abutted a neighbor’s land. When asked if his department had ignored calls of harassment against Baba, Newman noted “He’s never made any complaints or reports on any of this stuff.”
Newman noted that past surveys of Gardner have been way off; relying in part on old existing fences set down in the 19th century. “The whole area is in bad shape.” Newman noted there are other claims on parts of the property, and there are claims of adverse possession. “The whole property is not in question- just about a half acre from this guy to that guy.”
Chuck Choin, one of Baba’s neighbor’s to the north, hasn’t talked to Baba outside of the courtroom since 2006, when, as Choin puts it, “Things started getting scratchy.” It was then that Baba wanted to collect $9,720 from Choin for five year’s “back rent” on the section of property both men claim. “I bought my property in 1983, and have paid the taxes on it every year,” Choin says. “The way he’s got his property stakes now run right through my house. The big question about all this is, why does he want my land anyway? Any of this land- what’s he gonna do with it?”
Baba’s answer to that question was, “We just want to be left alone. We plant gardens, we build, and we pray.”