Developer removes HOA board
A residential development south of Crested Butte continues to be home to controversy, years after it was approved by Gunnison County.
In the latest development, Buckhorn Ranch developer Dr. Richard “Dick” Landy says he has removed all members of the homeowners association board, while at least one angry resident has appealed to Gunnison County to declare the developer in default and use $3 million in letters of credit it’s holding to complete Buckhorn Ranch’s infrastructure.
“We just want what was promised,” says Buckhorn Ranch Homeowners Association board president Grant Bremer, who says he is still acting as board president until the homeowner association’s annual meeting in July. Bremer believes there is a large list of infrastructure requirements that Landy needs to address, including the proper installation of roads in the second filing of Buckhorn Ranch.
However, Landy, a Denver-based developer, says the infrastructure is 95 percent complete. “I’m proud of what we’ve done out there and I think it’s a really good development,” he says.
Buckhorn Ranch, a fly-in, fly-out community that will have nearly 400 homes at build-out, has been in the works since the late 1970s. Since the final plan approval in April 2004, the development has been troubled with problems like a freezing water main, poor drainage, lagging road maintenance and issues relating to the affordable housing area of the subdivision, Stallion Park. Most of the infrastructure issues, however, have been associated with Buckhorn Ranch.
Last year, the Gunnison County commissioners agreed to oversee improvements at the development, after hearing numerous complaints from property owners. In November 2007, the commissioners went as far as to consider issuing a stay on building permits on yet-to-be-sold lots in the subdivision, but decided to hold off due to progress made.
With the county keeping close watch, Landy and his engineer, Jerry Burgess of Schmueser Gordon Meyer Engineers and Surveyors, say there has been significant progress. In a letter to this newspaper on June 23, Landy stated that “all of the underground utilities including the water system, sewer system, electric, phone and natural gas have been installed to each an (sic) every lot at Buckhorn Ranch.” In addition, Landy noted that the roads’ sub-base and chip-seal has been completed, although the surfacing is currently being evaluated for repairs.
Burgess agrees that the infrastructure is near completion. “I’d say we’re real close,” he says. However, he acknowledges that the project has been delayed. “Can I put my finger on why? No, I can’t,” he says. “But yes, it’s taken much longer than it should have.”
Landy maintains that he intended the subdivision to be developed in stages and he thinks it’s been accomplished in a timely manner, considering the obstacles he was met with.
On Friday, May 30, county staff, Landy, representatives from the homeowners association, and individual homeowners visited the site to gauge the progress made on completing infrastructure work. Following the meeting, Burgess agreed to compile a checklist of items that Landy still needs to complete to finish the project, according to the development’s 2002 engineering plans and the development improvement agreement.
Those items, according to Burgess, include putting in a new layer of chip-seal on sections of South Avion Drive, which was chip-sealed last summer; compacting other sections of other roads; repairing some damaged roads; maintaining the leaking Roseland Lake; and completing a softball field (or other recreation amenity.)
Even with plans for improvements being made, some homeowners want to see work on the ground completed immediately in Buckhorn Ranch.
Buckhorn Ranch resident Nancy Olsen wrote a letter to Gunnison County dated June 13 that called on the county to call on Landy’s letters of credit rather than wait any longer. “We are sorry to say but we think that we have a developer in default,” she wrote. A copy of the letter, originally represented as being from the Buckhorn Ranch Homeowners Association, was furnished to the Crested Butte News last week and was the subject of a news story.
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Olsen said in an interview this week that she was incorrect to sign it from the HOA but said the letter did represent several landowners in Buckhorn Ranch and contained items many residents believe should be added to the county’s checklist.
Olsen also expressed frustration over how the county process has unfolded. “I don’t understand why the county has given Landy a number of extensions to complete the infrastructure at Buckhorn Ranch,” she says. “There are many problems out here.”
Last week, the Crested Butte News incorrectly reported that the Gunnison County commissioners had decided to issue a stay on building permits on yet-to-be-sold lots in the subdivision. That step has not been taken. County attorney David Baumgarten said in an email dated Thursday, June 19, “While such a remedy is available to the County, the Board of County Commissioners has NOT determined yet to exercise that remedy.”
However, Olsen says she greeted the news with relief. “For us personally, we were relieved that the county wasn’t going to issue permits,” she says. “We were sorry to learn that the county hadn’t done it.”
Bremer says the HOA board has not taken an official position on whether the county should refuse to issue building permits. Bremer says he personally is undecided over such a measure because of the unforeseen consequences.
HOA board vice-president Fran Guy understands the emotion that’s behind such calls. “It’s frustrating that no one can give us a timeline of when [infrastructure] will be done,” he said. The county, Guy says, is “our only protection.”
On the other hand, Peter and Talley Nichols have just moved into their home this month and are excited about it. “We’re really, really psyched on the piece of land we built on and the house we got to build,” says Peter Nichols, who also serves on the board. But he acknowledges that there have been some problems at the development. “We’ve always attributed those to growing pains of the new subdivision but the growing pains have been longer as things keep cropping up.”
County commissioner Jim Starr is aware of the residents’ frustration and says the county will hold a work session on the matter within the next few weeks. “My goal is to hear from everyone out there to see where things are at and we’ll decide if further action needs to be taken,” he says, while noting that he’s hearing that progress is being made to install infrastructure. However, Starr says, “I think we need to look at everything he’s obligated to do, very closely.”
Complicating the matter further, Landy called a special meeting on Saturday, May 31—the day after the county’s walk-through—and contends he dismissed the entire HOA board, which includes Bremer, Guy, Liz Gowins and Nichols. Landy, as the majority lot owner in Buckhorn Ranch, maintains control over the association board, although he was not previously a board member.
In an email dated June 24 to this newspaper, Landy wrote, “Please be advised that Grant Bremer was removed as president and member of the board of directors at a special meeting of the Buckhorn Ranch Association, Inc. on May 31, 2008. Fran Guy was also removed at this meeting.”
During an interview the same day, Landy said he voted during the May 31 meeting to remove the entire board and the HOA is currently without representation. “There’s a lull,” he says and notes that a new board slate consisting of himself, Gunnison resident Carl Moyer and Jerelyn Gott are currently seeking seats. That contest will be decided at the development’s annual meeting on Saturday, July 12.
However, Bremer and Guy contend that Landy did not have jurisdiction under the association’s protective covenants to call a special meeting and that board members can only be removed at regular meetings or the annual meeting. In addition, they point out that the covenants say new board members must be appointed immediately, an action that was not taken. “We’re still seated for now,” Bremer says.
Crested Butte attorney Peter Bogardus, who attended the May 31 meeting to represent Buckhorn Ranch resident Michael Weiner, says Landy agreed at the end of the meeting not to unseat the board and to wait until the annual meeting of the homeowners.
According to Bremer, no minutes were kept of the May 31 meeting and were therefore not available to the newspaper. Landy says that minutes were kept, but not by a board member, and they will be distributed to members before the July meeting.
In any case, Bremer charges Landy of purposefully seeking out a board that will not criticize infrastructure once it’s complete. “I think he wants a board in place that won’t give him so much flak, someone who will approve the infrastructure when completed,” Bremer says. “He wants a board that’s a ‘yes’ board.”
For his part, Landy denies Bremer’s assertion and says he feels the current board “is not representing Buckhorn Ranch well, in my estimation.” He says it will be easier to move forward with a clean slate. “There has been so much negative energy,” Landy says. “It’s time to move forward positively… It’s time to change.”
Landy says it has not been decided whether members of an ancillary board, the Buckhorn Ranch design review board, will keep their seats. The current members are Nancy Olsen, Fran Guy, Trevor Maltby and Sam Walsh. “That is up to the new board,” Landy says. “No decisions have been made on that.”
According to county attorney David Baumgarten, the county will hold a meeting to update citizens about the progress in Buckhorn Ranch within the month. “It’s the intention of the county to hold another work session like the ones they did last year so everyone is accurately informed at the same place and the same time within the next two to three weeks,” he says. A time, date and place for that work session has not yet been set.