The devil is in the details

The following is part of an ongoing series dealing with road conditions in Gunbarrel and Niwot. The Courier previously has covered what types of road problems are currently being fixed. The following article covers how the Burgundy Park subdivision created a PID to fix and maintain its roads.

While everybody talks about the poor conditions of subdivision roads, there is one small community that has done something about it. In 2017, the Burgundy Park subdivision in Niwot formed a Public Improvement District (PID) to address the deteriorating roads.

PIDs are created to help finance community infrastructure, such as roads, parks and other amenities. While new developments frequently sell bonds to finance these improvements, with property owners paying back those bonds through assessments, the Burgundy Park PID was created in partnership with Boulder County where the county acted as the bank.

The Back Story

In 1995, the then Boulder County Commissioners and Planning Commission changed the Comprehensive Plan policy with respect to roads in unincorporated Boulder County, essentially declaring that the county would no longer rebuild rural subdivision roads that the county had accepted from the developer. As reported in the Courier’s May 1 issue, county road crews will do some maintenance, such as filling potholes and sealing cracks, but short of being a highly dangerous road, the county will not repair roadbed issues.

The county’s change in policy has been unsuccessfully challenged in court, and all appeals have been turned down. What the county did do initially, was to create a $1 million incentive fund as a way to share the cost of fixing deteriorating rural subdivision roads. That fund was short-lived.

According to former NCA president Dick Piland, who spearheaded the effort to reverse the county’s ruling on road repair, “The county withdrew [the incentive fund] … and the reason they give is that FEMA has not reimbursed them for the road repairs [the county] made after the September 2013 floods. Something like $35 million is what the county thinks FEMA owes them.”

The Burgundy Park PID: The devil is in the details

Dick Lentz, long-time resident of Burgundy Park, was instrumental in working out the details of a remarkable PID. Lentz said, after the failed court challenges, in 2016 the county proposed a Willing Partner Arrangement where “the county would pay for 30 percent of the reconstruction of your roads if you’ll join us in a partnership.”

Creating a PID involved months of research. Starting in 2017, Lentz said he, Lance Carlson and HOA president Steve Ekman looked into other PIDs as well as the legal aspects for regulations that affect the formations of PIDs in Colorado, so that they could create a petition for a PID for Burgundy Park.

To create a petition for the county, there were numerous meetings with other Burgundy Park homeowners to get their input and concerns. “We took every one of their issues and went back to the county and said the homeowners would like ‘this’ or, they like ‘that.’ We found that the county was very agreeable to tweak this petition before it ever got on the ballot,” Lentz said.

One of the issues Burgundy Park residents were concerned about was making sure that once passed, taxes for the PID would not go up. There is a provision in the PID, which states that taxes will go down if the cost of the work is below the estimate.

Another stipulation was to make it very clear that the residents would not be charged for routine maintenance, but only for an additional overlay.

Once the homeowners were in agreement, a petition was created that went to the county to have the county’s legal team review it. Boulder County then put out a resolution. Lentz said they were very careful and made sure that the wording of the county’s resolution matched that of the original petition and any tweaking the county might have done would be dealt with.

As an example of the tweaking, Lentz said, “Because of Tabor [the county] had put a provision that said taxes may be reduced. We said, ‘No.’ Our understanding is [taxes] will be reduced and it’s permanent, which is a pretty significant difference, because they wanted the ability to raise it back up. They took that back out.”

What’s the upshot?

Lentz said the PID “is an agreement between us and the county and it restricts them. It gives us a service, but it restricts what they can do. They can’t raise our taxes. They can’t charge us beyond a certain amount. They have to do the work within a certain time frame.”

As for approving the PID, out of the approximately 110 residents in the subdivision, Lentz said 72 voted and out of that number, 80 percent approved it.

In addition, Lentz said that the residents agreed to postpone the repairs from 2018 to 2019, because the county was going to be repaving Niwot Road. Burgundy Park would profit from what Lentz describes as a bulk discount.

“To do the road independently,” Lentz said, “would have been very expensive. They said they’re doing Niwot Road and they’ll swing by … and do your roads while we’re doing Niwot Road.”

In an email dated June 19, Lentz writes that the projected cost for the project is estimated at $1,082,000 and has resulted in a tax increase of $120 per year per $100,00 of property value for each home in the subdivision..

Ultimately, Lentz feels the subdivision got “a pretty good deal.” Homes are being assessed between $200 to $900 dollars per year for the roads, depending on the value of the home. Having the county do the repairs piggybacked onto the Niwot Road repaving “probably saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

In the end, Lentz said, “Although I don’t believe that forming a PID is the only solution for addressing the problems with our subdivision roads, it is one of the options available. But if we are going to have a reasoned discussion about all of our options, it would be best if it started with an accurate representation of them.”

The following link to the Burgundy Park HOA home page provides information for other subdivisions considering implementing a Public Improvement District. https://burgundyparkhoa.wordpress.com/pid-proposal-faq/