Gypsum cracks down on landscape laggers
The Town of Gypsum is cracking down on new home owners who are slow completing their landscaping. Concerned that at least 40 homeowners in the Chatfield Corners and Buckhorn Valley subdivisions are living with expired Temporary Certificate of Occupancy permits – or TCOs – as well as unfinished back yards, the Gypsum Town Council decided last week to get tough.
Effective immediately, property owners seeking a TCO will be required to enter into a “Construction Improvement Agreement” with the town. That agreement commits the landowner to full completion of the property including all landscaping, grading, and other building requirements. Along with the agreement, property owners will be required to deposit $1,500 with the town, to be refunded upon issuance of a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.
The town will be enforcing some TCO deadlines. During warm-weather months, the TCO will be good for 90 days. For people who move into a new home during winter months, the TCO will be extended to June 1, in order to allow time for landscaping.
Lana O’Neill, building department administrator for the town, said the backyard landscaping issues are not tied to drought conditions. She noted that both the Chatfield and Buckhorn subdivisions have an arrangement whereby the developer completes the front yard landscaping but homeowners are responsible for the back yards. Both subdivisions also have water systems that allow landscape watering with non-potable water.
Gypsum officials say repeated notifications to the holders of the expired TCOs haven’t yet spurred any action.
“More than half of the TCO’s have expired in Buckhorn and Chatfield Corners, and one of the reasons is the backyard landscaping,” said O’Neill.
Town Manager Jeff Shroll said the situation is a code enforcement issue, and a growing problem for the town. The unfinished back yards create dust problems and are unsightly, he said.
He attributed a lot of the problems to a lack of communication between the developers, builders and owners. Spec houses built with the intent to sell are a particular problem.
“The backyard can’t be just dirt and weeds. We don’t care how you do it, but it’s got to be done,” said Shroll.
While voicing some reluctance to add yet another up-front cost to new homes, council members agreed that the deposit might be the answer.
“It is a good idea. This is one of those things that becomes a problem. This is one way to make sure the landscaping does get done,” said Councilman Dick Mayne. Fellow Councilman Tom Edwards said property owners aren’t in a rush to get things done once they obtain a TCO.
Although Edwards expressed support for stepping up enforcement of landscaping requirements, he also voiced some concern.
“It is unfortunate that because people won’t do it, we have to increase the cost of the house … we try to do everything we can to make it affordable,” Edwards said.
Town Attorney Bob Cole suggested another option might be taking homeowners to court if they don’t complete their landscaping.
Under the new regulations, homeowners who fail to do required landscaping, and forfeit their deposit, will be subject to possible court action and up to a $100 per day fine.
The town has sent out letters to local homebuilders and contractors regarding the change in policy.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.