Group seeks to overturn controversial Breckenridge ordinance
Summit Daily News
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – Petitioners seeking to overturn a controversial ordinance mandating firebreaks around Breckenridge homes submitted 561 signatures of support on Wednesday, according to Eric Buck with the Committee to Rescind Ordinance 15.
The number is well beyond the 333 needed. Buck said he hopes the town considers rescinding the ordinance in the next few weeks rather than holding an election this fall.
“The vote’s going to go against them,” he said. “By rescinding now, they can get back to a proper ordinance quicker.”
He cited that in 2007 – another odd year – only 471 residents even voted.
Kathy Neel, Summit County election administrator, said there weren’t many issues on the ballot in 2007, but “it’s looking like it’s not going to be real big” this year, either.
The town’s “defensible space” ordinance includes creation of 30-foot firebreaks by July 2012 at homeowners’ expense. Compliance can cost residents of wooded areas $1,200 or more.
The Red, White and Blue Fire District conducts inspections of homes, and district officials have said the ordinance helps protect homes as well as the firefighters who would be on scene during a wildfire.
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said he continues to support the legislation that took about seven months of public hearings and revisions before its adoption in June.
“I still support the defensible space ordinance,” he said, adding that his property is slated to be inspected on Monday.
Town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said the town has 10 days from Wednesday to certify the petitions.
“The ordinance is suspended at this point,” she said, adding that an insufficient number of valid signatures is one factor that could end the suspension.
If the petitioners have enough signatures, the council will be required to reconsider the ordinance. If the legislation is not repealed, the voters would decide its fate through November’s election ballot.
RWB spokeswoman Kim Scott said the district is most concerned with creating defensible space, regardless of whether it’s required by law.
“It would be great to have the defensible space ordinance,” she said. “Our great push is public education and understanding.”
RWB chief Gary Green said in a statement that the district continues to seek “progressive ways” to address wildfire risks affected by such factors as unhealthy forests and limited transportation corridors.
Buck said the town’s ordinance should be changed to address such “key issues” as warning systems, evacuation routes and firebreaks that prevent fire from spreading “around the community” while allowing individuals to protect their own homes.
Town Councilman Dave Rossi voted against the ordinance’s adoption and signed the petition to overturn it.
“I voted against it because I think that the ordinance itself is not sound. It needs to either be thrown out or rewritten,” he said.
He added that the town has received some feedback that “kind of hit below the belt” and was “unnecessary,” and that he hopes the process continues with respect.
“I think everybody had the best intentions, and staff did really hard work trying to make the ordinance flexible and address concerns,” Rossi said.
He compared the ordinance with legislation under way to regulate home sizes, which has involved a citizen’s committee and has “worked out really well,” Rossi said.
He also said that perhaps the matter could best be handled beyond the town’s jurisdiction.
“I really think the fire district – if they think this is so important, they need to use statutory power to enforce this in the entire district and not just Breckenridge, where they have a sympathetic ear in staff members,” Rossi said.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or email@example.com.
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Images of mud and debris slides on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon near Bair Ranch (MM129) taken on Wednesday, Aug 4.