Aiming for 90-day timeframe, separate questions on backyard hens and dues cap
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
The Crested Butte South Property Owner’s Association (POA) determined last week that it would hold a new vote on amendments to its covenants this year after having nullified the previous vote held last November. This time around the POA plans to allocate votes based on property deeds, eliminating some irregularities of former practices, and to add two ballot questions that separate controversial aspects contained in the proposed re-stated covenants. But the board has held firm that it does not want to reopen the entire process and re-visit the overall multi-year efforts of the Covenant Amendment Steering Committee (CASC).
During the POA meeting on February 9, board members decided after extensive debate and public comment that they would stick to the work of holding a legally sound vote, but not on changing the general content of the current covenant change proposals. They also agreed it would be best to hold a new vote as quickly as possible to avoid passing the unfinished business and policy development on to a potentially new group of board members as several members come to the end of their term in August of 2022.
The POA nullified its November covenant vote last month after a group of homeowners completed a review of the vote documents, acknowledging that the review process had brought some legitimate issues forward of misallocated votes and unclear covenant change details. The POA’s historic practice of giving two votes to a main structure with an axillary structure instead of just one per deed was based on vague and conflicting language in the Bylaws, according to board of directors president Andrew Sandstrom, and in some cases more than one vote was cast and counted per household than should have been.
The re-stated covenants also contained allowance for backyard hens and removed a 10% cap on annual property owner dues increases. Neither of those items was specifically highlighted on the ballot and each proved to be a cause for controversy.
Sandstrom initially suggested a six-month timeline for conducting a new vote, and suggested “redlining” the new covenant proposal, or showing it line for line with the older version. Board member and CASC committee member David Neben emphasized that the committee had already attempted that approach early on and found it to be nearly impossible due to the various changes made over the years.
“That would be very expensive and basically illegible,” he said of hiring an attorney to create a redline document. “We already spent two years doing this in a publicly available CASC process,” he noted. Neben suggested a 90-day timeline so as not to leave the process for a board after potential turn over.
Board member Matt McCombs agreed. “I don’t want us to drift into reinterpreting the work that has been done.” He said he thought the work on the key issues and the covenants was pretty good. “At the end of the day, what we voted on was pretty straightforward. I don’t think it was unclear; I don’t think it was misleading…I don’t support opening up feedback on the covenants themselves or any tenants that we voted on.”
However, there was a great deal of public feedback throughout the meeting suggesting the process be reopened, and supporting an extensive redlining.
“If you hadn’t been involved in the process for the past three or four years, you wouldn’t have understood that the red-line document would be so challenging,” said board member Mary Haskell.
Maggie Dethloff said she sees the vote allocation as a very clear black and white issue, and offered to help with that based on property deeds. Dethloff also offered to head up or participate in a committee to attempt a redline document and help the POA avoid spending money on legal counsel. The idea was that an attorney could then review a final draft instead of charging for the hundreds of hours needed to create it. Ultimately after a lot of debating, the board decided that a volunteer citizens committee creating that document would significantly delay the re-vote.
Different STR caps? Third stories?
Deborah Tutnauer said she believes there were more problems with the vote to consider. “There were many suggestions by the public in the process of moving toward the last covenant vote that were ignored,” she said. “And we have an opportunity, even though it might be hard and it might be time-consuming, to revisit some things that people are really concerned about,” she said. She specifically mentioned the removal of the 10% cap on dues and the 90- day cap on short-term rentals (STRs).
“I have heard that there was a great deal of discussion and research…yet I can find limited documentation of all that research and discussion and I would really love to see it,” said Tutnauer of the STR cap.
Sandstrom said the meeting minutes had not always been as thorough as they could be, but said those meetings had in fact occurred.
“We are not doing this [re-vote] because people were unhappy with the results,” said board member Liz Jordan.
Mark Ewing, who was involved with the CASC from its inception, spoke with the Crested Butte News after the meeting about the committee’s process. He said that 90 days stemmed from the intent to allow STRs for community members as a supplemental income but to keep it from appealing to corporations or full-time STR businesses. “The whole point was to build a true community and not allow Crested Butte South to become what has become ‘Hotel Crested Butte,’” he said.
“When people are complaining now that there was no chance for people to give input, I find that incredibly frustrating,” Ewing said. “There were multiple attempts to engage everyone—there were e-mail blasts, public meetings from March of 2019 up until the vote (21 meetings over the course of three years), public notices and articles in the paper. We asked for everyone’s input and for more community members to volunteer and be a part of the CASC. We did everything we could to get people to be involved and they weren’t. For people to now be complaining, I feel like they kind of missed the boat,” he concluded.
The re-vote also attracted several people to the board meeting hoping to add a new item to the covenant amendments. A group of attendees advocated to bring back a ballot question from a few years ago allowing three story buildings in the commercial zone of CB South that had failed due to lack of enough voters.
Tina Kempin spoke on behalf of Gunnison Bank & Trust Company, which has two lots in Pioneer Plaza in the commercial district. She supported placing residential above commercial spaces using three stories to address the workforce-housing crisis. “I think it is an important option for all of us,” she said.
“It’s very important to us…that the POA put to a vote, does the community want a commercial area?” said Rich Saperstein, who aired some past grievances surrounding Pioneer Plaza developments.
Sandstrom agreed that there were exciting opportunities ahead. “The commercial area is our greatest opportunity in Crested Butte South and possibly the north end of the valley,” he said. He spoke of a larger vision that could include an elementary school, affordable housing and more. “I would love to open up some of these conversations again that seem to have gone stagnant.”
Haskell said she believes the covenant changes as proposed ought to be dealt with first, and the other board members agreed they did not want to invite more covenant changes at this time, but could work on those projects after the covenants became more streamlined and more adaptable in the future.
Sticking to the basics…for now
Several board members commented that they have never had this kind of turnout at POA meetings – there were more than 40 people attending – and there was hope to maintain forward motion with that new energy.
Through several resolutions and one rescinded/restated resolution, the board eventually unanimously voted to hold the re-vote; to clarify the vote allocations based on property deed and plat; to add two covenant questions singling out removal of the 10% dues cap and allowing backyard hens; and to update the restated covenants clarifying that properties clustered prior to the vote are grandfathered in to an assessed vote of 1.5.
The board will work with its committees and legal counsel to make the covenant proposal changes, and present the new document to the community further in advance of the vote, than was done last time. The plan is to confirm a re-vote date at the March meeting based on progress.