Burlingame homeowners surveyed on removing dog ban

by Dorothy Atkins, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

City officials are conducting a survey of current Burlingame Ranch homeowners to determine whether they should pursue a policy change that would allow dogs in the affordable housing development.

The survey asks Burlingame homeowners their opinions on a range of dog-related issues, including whether they have a preference on the species and size of dogs, and if there should be a leash rule.

The idea is to use the feedback collected to create a city policy on dogs in future affordable housing projects that will match the desire of the community, said Assistant City Manager Barry Crook, who presented the issue to the city’s open space and trails board in a recent meeting.

A dog ban was originally placed on the first phase of Burlingame, located on land across Highway 82 from Buttermilk, as a part of a pre-annexation deal with neighboring ranch owners before it opened in 2007. That would have to be changed, as would the declarations and covenants with the existing Burlingame homeowners association, for the pet restriction to be removed on the entire complex. The development includes 48 new units, which are slated to be built next year.

In a recent work session, Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the policy change. Councilman Adam Frisch argued that removing the ban would translate into millions of dollars of additional revenue from pet owners who decide to purchase Burlingame units in the project’s second phase.

Open space and trails board members made arguments against allowing dogs at Burlingame due to the likelihood that they would disrupt surrounding wildlife area and damage property.

Even if there is a leash requirement, dogs could find ways to escape and disturb the sensitive surrounding wildlife, said open space and trails board member Gyles Thornely.

“Personally, I think it’s a big mistake,” he said. Also it would upset current homeowners who live at Burlingame and had to give up their pet due to the ban, he said, adding that he knew at least three people who gave up their animals to live at Burlingame.

There is evidence that plant ecology can be disrupted by dogs, said Stephen Ellsperman, city of Aspen parks and open space director. Also, a 2006 study done for Boulder County found that there was a correlation between the presence of dogs and altered wildlife habitat patterns of rabbits, chipmunks, mice and foxes.

Still, city staff could theoretically enforce a leash requirement if dogs were allowed, he said, adding that open space rangers would monitor it.

If the dog ban is removed, the city would have to change the neighboring open space management plan, Ellsperman noted.

The board directed staff to gather more specific information about how dogs would impact the adjacent open space before making a formal recommendation. The information will be presented at a meeting in January.

Board member Howie Malory said he didn’t want to make a decision that could impact the wildlife area negatively in order to satisfy the city’s marketing need to sell real estate.

Crook argued that allowing dogs at Burlingame would not just be a marketing stunt.

“Behind a real estate issue are real people wanting to live there,” Crook said.  “So it’s not just ‘Do I want to sell units?’ I want to sell units to the people who live and work in this community and respond to their desires of how they want to live.”