Dogs will be allowed in new units to be built at the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing neighborhood, even if homeowners in the project’s first phase wish to maintain the pooch prohibition for their buildings and grounds, according to an Aspen city official.
The city of Aspen and the owners of a ranch bordering Burlingame included a no-dog clause in a “pre-annexation” agreement that brought the parcels into the city, since at the time, the Bar/X Ranch was a working ranch and managers did not wish to see livestock harassed. The agreement also was made out of sensitivity to wildlife that inhabit nearby open space. Homeowners in the 84 units and seven single-family homes at phase I, which was completed in 2007, bought with the understanding that dogs would not be allowed.
The city is now set to build 48 more units at Burlingame, beginning this spring, the first of the 167 total units that could be built as part of phase II over the next several years. Affordable housing program officials have heard overwhelming demand from locals that more dog-friendly units are needed in town, said Aspen Assistant City Manager Barry Crook, characterizing the issue as a primary concern on people’s minds when it comes to housing.
To meet that demand, the city, which gets to establish the covenants governing the units at phase II, will write the law to allow those homeowners to have dogs, Crook said. That will be the case even if homeowners in phase I, which has a separate HOA, are not in support of their neighbors having dogs, he said.
“Phase II will have dogs,” Crook said. If phase I homeowners remain against lifting the ban for their units, rules could be established requiring dogs to be on a leash, and that they be kept off the phase I grounds and open space areas, Crook added.
Before dogs could be allowed, the city and the HOA at the Bar/X Ranch, which has now been converted into 13 free-market, single-family homesites, will have to amend the pre-annexation agreement. Aspen City Council, which will have to sign off on the change, has indicated its support, as have Bar/X homeowners, said Aspen City Attorney Jim True. An amendment to the pre-annexation agreement should come before council in the coming months, True said.
All this may leave some phase I homeowners feeling thrown under the bus, as the city aims to make the new housing stock at Burlingame more marketable. Stefan Reveal, HOA president for phase I, noted the “self-selection bias” many of the homeowners have against a dog-friendly property, since they bought their units under no-canine terms. Typically, when the issue has come up in the past, “From my understanding, yes, Burlingame Ranch has been against it,” Reveal said of changing the policy.
The HOA will soon survey its members, asking them if they want the dog ban lifted for phase I, which the homeowners are free to do once the pre-annexation agreement is changed; the survey also will gauge people’s feelings about Burlingame phase II allowing dogs, Reveal said. Much is riding on the results of the survey as the board determines how to proceed, Reveal said.
The Burlingame dogs issue has attracted the attention of local activist Marilyn Marks, who submitted a request under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) for all emails and communications between city officials, Burlingame homeowners and the public concerning changing the pre-annexation agreement and covenants.
Marks in 2008, and the years following, was critical of the city’s erroneous public dissemination of information that put the cost of Burlingame phase 1 well under what it actually was. The figure used in a brochure did not include infrastructure, soft costs and other expenses known to the city at the time. The subsidy level made by the city government was between five and six times higher for the project than what was stated in the erroneous brochure distributed by City Hall. That revelation led to a financial advisory committee being formed, which Marks served on. A full audit of the city-run project was done by an outside firm, which led to an entirely different way the municipal government is approaching phase II.
Marks, who also is in litigation with Aspen and other Colorado local governments over access to voted ballots, said she was contacted by residents at Burlingame, who sought her help getting information from the city.
“Most people don’t know CORA rules to begin with,” Marks said, explaining her role in the case. “And secondly, people do not want to set themselves up for ... getting on the wrong side of the city.”
One of the emails Marks’ request turned up from a Burlingame resident to a city official laid out the problems some of the homeowners have with lifting the ban.
“Almost everyone I know in our neighborhood would like to have dogs, but they don’t want them there because with the ban taken off, we have the potential of having more than 250 dogs pooping in areas that our children play in,” wrote the Burlingame resident.