Letter to Editor: Lots vs. voters in Baca Grande POA
We belong to the POA, the People-Owners Association.
The people are owned by the lots. The mission of the People-Owners Association is to protect the value of the lots.
The Budget: the POA collects dues from each lot, $640 this year, $493 last year. The POA does some nice things with their budget to keep the people happy: grading and plowing roads, maintaining the green spaces that residents love. People are given to believe that the roads and green spaces would not be maintained without the benevolence of the POA. That the state or a municipality could not is something worth investigating. POA also does some not-so-nice things with the funds: using dues to pay mercenaries to go after lot occupants not adhering to the byelaws.
The POA is governed by a set of byelaws handed down from ancestral occupants of the Baca Grande lands. “Byelaws” meaning “Goodbye to your votes.” There are lots of lots in the POA and not so many people — 3,500 lots and 1,100 registered voters.
Each lot has one vote according to the POA Byelaws. The POA pretends that people get to vote. For example, the POA hands down a budget and lots (not exactly people) can vote yes or no on the budget. Not every lot votes. Some lots allow their votes to be cast by proxy. How many proxy votes are there? Who decides how the votes are cast? A secret. The fun never ends! Not surprisingly, the budget passes.
Last year, some visionaries among the people looked back at the Colorado Constitution and realized that in other places people rather than lots could vote. The people petitioned to create another type of voting system whereby each resident, each registered voter, would be able to vote on how their money was being spent. The POA hired a vote buster to take care of this attempt at democracy. Thus far, this vote buster has been paid $16,287 and there is potentially more to be paid. Meanwhile the people have spent $3,175 for legal advice to counter the vote buster.
Each year the POA budgets $200,000 in legal fees to keep the land occupants in line with the byelaws.
According to a Rocky Mountain PBS report: “Court records show 65 cases involving the POA filed in … courts since 2016. The [POA] said it was a defendant in eight of those cases….. Most of the remaining cases were filed by the [POA] against property owners who the POA said did not comply with the community’s [Byelaws], or who the POA said were delinquent in paying their [dues].”
Byelaws: The POA is governed by a Board of Directors and employees. These are people too and many are owned by lots but their actions are directed by the byelaws. To change the byelaws to allow a more democratic governing structure requires a majority of votes, but the votes come from lots, not people, which makes it impossible. Thus, the POA becomes a zombie organization that plods on under the spell of those ancient byelaws.
Robert P. Donaldson