Den of Iniquity

pvt drive 1219

After a long build-up I finally went to my homeowners association meeting last night, which was much less contentious than expected. But I did learn Lynn and I have been hopelessly naive about this “idyllic” place in which we live.

The meeting was hosted by our resident attorney, who said afterward that this would be the last time he offered his conference room. There were just too many people in too small a space. The most recent homeowner was there, sitting right next to his contractor’s brother as he complained about the pace of his construction. Thirteen months, he said, but I believe he and his wife, who initially planned to not be here during months that start with Snow, are finally in their house.

Eight out of the 10 existing houses were represented at the meeting. The board member whose parents occupy his house was on hand, and while he talked a lot, I found him much more reasonable than he was a year ago. (This could be a matter of perspective, because I found myself agreeing with him more, but he also didn’t go on an owner-bashing spree as he did last year.)

The board member whose family trust owns — and I’m assuming these are official numbers I finally have for you, even if they are not reflected in the budget — 14 of the 46 lots literally phoned in his appearance, not that it can be much fun to spend two hours on a phone while physically two counties away.

Then there were several lot owners who showed up. One, with a grouping of three adults I couldn’t figure relations for (who am I to judge?), said they hope to break ground in the spring, and another man, who left a little early to go watch his son’s school band concert, was asking about square footage requirements, so that sounds like a prospective homeowner to me.

A large man with an equally outsize personality who owns the lot directly across the road from us was there and asked to see my copy of the covenants where it said detached garages should be limited in height to one story. So maybe he’s planning a massive building project.

[Which, in the cold light of clarity 12 hours too late, I am left wondering how we expect people to store their RVs and boats in garages that can only be one story tall. I also wonder about the equity of an existing covenant that would allow any car collector to park his or her entire collection along the driveway, but not so much as a motorcycle can peep out from a garage.]

I do believe that everyone in attendance already lives somewhere in Gunnison County, which once again makes me question the second homeowner marketing plan. Although, in addition to the phoned-in board member, there are lot owners who do not live in the county, and we got to hear from one of them via video.

The attorney said this was one of his favorite videos as he cued it up and turned his laptop around so we could all take in a litany of trespassing complaints.

I met this lot owner and his wife at the first HOA meeting Lynn and I attended, shortly after we all bought our lots. If I’m remembering correctly, this couple had sold a land parcel high on a fairly remote hill above Gunnison to buy a riverside lot here. But I don’t think they did any research before they bought their lot, and they have spent their limited time and all their effort since then trying to stem a tide of trespassers, many of whom believe they have a right to travel along the river.

Which they do, just not where the trail has been gouged, probably for decades. There is a fishing easement deeded to the U.S. government by the owner of this property when it was a ranch, and there is a pedestrian easement deeded to the county by the original developers of Riverwalk. The attorney said he and the county road and bridge manager disagree on the existence of a third easement, which the county thinks the Bureau of Reclamation put in place as riverbank mitigation when it flooded what is now Blue Mesa Reservoir. At any rate, plenty of public access along the river, but a clear definition of where this access lies is only starting to take shape.

In the meantime, this couple set up at least two video cameras, and while they seemed to think, several times over the course of their video, that we, or at least the board, should feel bad for making them regret this purchase, I have to confess to being astounded at the volume of traffic recorded.

Lynn made an appearance in their video, but she was the only one I recognized. The worrisome ones were the ones identified as “hunters” who walked past the camera carting guns. One looked like a handgun, and I’m wondering what kind of “hunting” one does with that. There were pot smokers. There was one guy viewed going to great effort to yank a “no trespassing sign” off a tree and walking off with it. Lots of dog walkers (apparently it’s more offensive that many of the dogs were off-leash). There were people tripping, which caused this couple to worry about liability.

There were A LOT of people in their short video. They said “hundreds” every month, and there doesn’t seem reason to doubt this, even if I rarely see anyone along the river.

I don’t know that a fence, which is what they wanted but aren’t going to get, would solve their aggravation. They were hoping for a five-foot fence, probably privacy, all the way around their property, but the best they can do is a wildlife-friendly three-foot fence around their building envelope.

I don’t feel terribly sorry for these people, because the first thing I asked our realtor about was the path along the river we were walking on (buyer beware and all that), but I am taken aback by some people’s brazenness. Their driveway is clearly marked as private, but their video showed numerous people using it as a parking area, even setting up chairs and picnicking.

Riverside owners will Some Day get a three-foot high fence (buck rail, we learned last night, not split rail) between them and the river, but that’s only going to redirect, not stop, the walkers, the pot smokers, the gun-toters, the sign thieves, and the dogs. And there may be no hope for the picnickers who see “private driveway” as an invitation to set up day camp.

In addition to this abundance of woodland scofflaws I was unaware of, I haven’t touched on the guest cabin, which will be getting keypad entry: it turns out that all kinds of nefarious things happen there, too, from someone setting up residence for six months to illegally copying the key to people just helping themselves to the space.

The keypad issue came up initially regarding our mail house, which sits near the entryway and turns out to be a theft magnet for the packages that are too big to fit in the postal lockers.

So: here Lynn and I thought we’d bought this peaceful lot in the woods, and it turns out we are surrounded by criminal elements, trespassers and thieves. More than I ever would have expected. I had no idea we would be this close to high crimes and misdemeanors.


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