But a simple majority was not enough for transfer of fire & ambulance assets

by Larry Calloway

Supporters of the proposed Crestone Emergency Services district were on the winning side of a 541-382 vote by Baca Grande property owners Friday night in what amounted to a straw poll on the proposed Crestone Emergency Services District. The question proposed by the Baca Grande Property Owner’s Association (POA) was whether to convey fire trucks and other equipment plus real property to the new district, if it is approved by local voters in November. Of the 923 votes cast, 856 were by proxies, most of which were sent by mail.

The balloting was a futile exercise, as insiders undoubtedly knew, because of a legal opinion sought by the POA board that said the asset transfer would require a 67 per cent majority of all property owners voting in proportion to lots owned. Since there are 3339 lots with one vote each, the extraordinary majority would be 2,237 votes — far more than the total cast. Under this nearly impossible standard, even if every property owner who voted had approved the asset transfer, the proposition would have failed.

But the vote was a sign that Baca Grande property owners will vote for the creation of the district and the 16-mill property tax to fund it in November. They don’t have the whole say, however, because other property owners in the proposed district, including Crestone and outlying rural areas, also will vote in the general election. And Baca owners who are not residents of Colorado won’t be eligible to vote in November. The defeat of the asset transfer does not affect creation of the EMS district, if it is approved on Nov. 1, but it could complicate

the leasing of the POA assets to the district.

Only two property owners spoke when the general meeting was called to order after the vote tally was certified. Steve Smilack said the transfer for a nominal sum was bad business. He estimated the value of vehicles, fire houses, land and other assets at $2 million. Mark Jacobi, a supporter of the transfer, argued that the extraordinary majority was not required in view of a similar transfer of library assets to the new library district last year. This vote was by simple majority. The board’s position, apparently as advised by lawyers, was that the library building was a modular structure and not real property.

The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act, passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature in 1991, requires the 67 per cent majority for conveyance of common property. The Baca Grande was created more than 20 years earlier, in 1971, and retroactive laws are generally unconstitutional. But the law firm commissioned by the POA board opined that a declaration by the board in 2001 accepting portions of the condo law effectively negated this grandfathering. In other words, under this opinion the POA is effectively an association created after the effective date of the condo law.

Resident owners who showed up to cast their ballots plus proxy ballots in person at the 7pm scheduled time of the “meeting” Friday waited in line for about 90 minutes while eligibility of each owner was checked, one by one. The canvassed vote finally was announced at 9:20pm.

(Originally posted on the Crestone Conglomerate website)