Breckenridge repeals defensible space law
Breckenridge, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – A controversial ordinance mandating firebreaks on private property in Breckenridge was repealed Tuesday after town council members concluded it wouldn’t be worth the fight.
A successful petition drive by local residents forced council to reconsider the ordinance; if not repealed, the matter could have been decided by the public in a special election.
“We the town have lots of other things on our plate. I think to educate and work with the public from now to Nov. 3 would be very difficult,” Mayor John Warner said during Tuesday’s work session. “I’m not sure it would be effective.”
The ordinance approved in June was intended to protect people and structures from catastrophic wildfire by requiring residents to cut healthy and unhealthy trees, and other vegetation, within specific boundaries.
Councilmembers Eric Mamula and Dave Rossi voted against the ordinance last month; Tuesday’s vote for repeal was unanimous.
Also Tuesday, a new version of the defensible space ordinance was approved as voluntary – meaning the necessary permits remain available for people who want to create firebreaks around their homes.
Residents at the meeting said they opposed the new ordinance because it could affect their insurance rates.
“I fear they would refuse to pay a claim based on a standard we are setting,” he said.
The approved ordinance is to serve as an interim solution while long-term defensible space plans – including research of insurance companies’ policies – are under way.
This ordinance – as well as repeal of the original one – will be up for final vote and public hearings on Aug. 11.
Town staff worked about a year to prepare the defensible space legislation. Public feedback led to several changes in the wording – and illustrations in the ordinance depicting how some trees could be preserved.
The legislation also stated that clear-cutting was not an option.
The petition group, Committee to Rescind Ordinance 15, argued the law infringes upon their property rights and that the scientific evidence for defensible space isn’t sufficient enough to make it mandatory.
Officials with the fire district have emphasized that similar legislation has been widely approved in California and Nevada because of its impacts on mitigating wildfires.
Red, White and Blue Fire District chief Gary Green said that though the ordinance was repealed, the district will continue to support the town.
He also said there was “blatant deception” from the opposition.
“There was a significant amount of misinformation. I can respect disagreement on property rights,” he said, adding that people’s assertions that clear-cutting would be a regular practice were misleading.
He said he supports requiring defensible space and fire-safe roofing material for new structures – moves for which some council members have expressed support.
Town officials also said a task force may be formed to create alternatives for creating defensible space as well as plans for handling evacuations and other issues related to wildfires.
The defensible space ordinance called for a member of the fire district to inspect properties and determine which trees must be removed.
Of the more than 200 residences the fire district inspected this spring, the average home required 10 trees for removal.
But residents of wooded areas complained of estimates ranging to $1,200 or more.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or email@example.com.