June 14th, 2010
Gilpin Clear Creek Home and Land Owners Association Members
Jim Vogt, GCCHLA President
To all GCCHLA Members,
I’m writing you today to lay the groundwork for some discussion that needs to be had about the purpose of the GCCHLA, how the association relates to the landowners, and how the association manages its operations. I also have an important announcement about some changes to GCCHLA policy beginning next year.
As you may know, the GCCHLA was formed at the request of the US Forest Service for the purpose of issuing a collective access/use permit to the home and land owners of York Gulch. Since the roads we use to access our property cross USFS/BLM land, a “Special Use Permit” is required for us to legally perform road maintenance in those areas. This maintenance includes everything from seasonal grading to personal snow plowing.
To give you a little background on the permits… the USFS issues Special Use permits both to individuals and associations. The type of permit issued depends on the number of individual interests using the area specified by the permit. So, if one person needs a permit for a single point of access, the USFS may issue a permit to that individual. However, if multiple parties require a permit for the same area of land, the USFS requests that the multiple parties form an association to which the USFS issues a single permit.
There are two primary benefits to us as landowners for engaging in this arrangement with the USFS. The first is that it allows the membership within the association to change without requiring new USFS permits to be issued. This way, an individual who later requires a permit for the area (a new home owner for instance) is included simply by joining the association, rather than by engaging in the full permit application process. The permit application process can take more than 5 years to complete, requires an Environmental Impact study to be completed, and routinely costs as much as $15,000 – those costs being paid solely by the applicant.
The second major benefit to us is that, unlike most Special Use permits, the GCCHLA permit never expires. This is very unusual, as most permits require a reevaluation every 10 years. The typical renewal process requires a new Environmental Impact statement to be completed often costing more than $10,000.
The non-expiring permit issued to the GCCHLA, and other organizations like us, is generally no longer available. Were the association to dissolve and reform, it would no longer be eligible for the type of permit we currently hold. Additionally, anyone choosing not to participate in the association is not eligible for such a permit. Therefore, if we change the nature of the association, not only do we lose access to maintain our roads while the application is processed, but we would be responsible not only for the permit application costs today, but also for every 10 years going forward including any required Environmental Impact studies.
The Special Use permit we hold is not free. The permit is paid for annually, with the permit costs being periodically adjusted (generally upwards). The permit currently costs the HOA approximately $1,000 per year. To cover the cost for the permit fee, as well as the approximately $1,200 liability insurance cost required for an association, the GCCHLA has membership dues of $50 per year, per land owner. This works out so that each individual or family owning land is responsible for one $50 payment per year, regardless of the number of parcels owned or type of use.
These dues are mandatory. The association’s financial obligations must
be maintained in order to avoid restructuring our relationship with the
USFS. By the definition in the permit, any land
owner whose primary property access is via
Up until this point, paid membership has represented only a portion of the landowners who are covered by the permit. While payment of dues has always been legally enforceable, the association has historically chosen not to pursue legal action against non-paying landowners. This has been the case for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we all would like people to have the space to do as they wish up here. In principle, none of us wants to be forced to participate in something we’re not interested in, and no one wants to try to force anything on anyone else. And up to this point, this approach has produced a reasonably functional landowner’s association for York Gulch, meeting the few collective needs of the community, and maintaining the legal and financial obligations of the association.
Over time, unfortunately, things
have changed. It is now the case that a
significant number of landowners using
The first of those steps is this communication. There is a lot of information floating around about what the GCCHLA is and does, and whether we do or don’t need the association – only a small portion of that information is correct. So, while I apologize for the length of this letter, I thought it was most important that everyone have the same information about the association, why it exists, and why we need it going forward.
The second step we are taking is a difficult but necessary one. Beginning January 1, 2011, the GCCHLA will begin placing liens on those properties owned by non-paying members. The GCCHLA requests a dues payment of $50 for the current year only. However, should a lien be filed, it will be filed for the full amount of past dues owed, dating to time of purchase.
The third step is for us to have a
detailed conversation on this subject at the next GCCHLA annual meeting, being
held at the