Breckenridge defensible-space policy postponed
April 15, 2009
BRECKENRIDGE ” Breckenridge leaders are progressing toward a “defensible-space” policy to make private properties more fire-safe, though concerns regarding its interpretation will likely postpone a final product until late May.
An update to the mountain pine-beetle ordinance ” which requires property owners to remove dead or infested trees ” compliments the proposed policy by extending from one to three the number of years for required compliance.
These changes, which included more specific plans regarding town property and open space, received preliminary approval at Tuesday’s town council meeting.
“We’ll continue with the inspection program,” town manager Tim Gagen said Wednesday. “But if it’s done over three years, there’s less pressure.”
By giving property owners the chance to remove trees for both beetle infestation and defensible space within three years, the changes are intended to ease the burden on property owners’ finances.
The defensible-space policy was on Tuesday’s agenda for preliminary approval; however, lingering concerns regarding the language led to removal.
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Councilman Dave Rossi said the property he toured with staff was “covered in very healthy trees,” but that many of the trees were touching.
The defensible-space proposal states that within 30 feet of a structure, trees must be well spaced and well pruned. Within 75 feet of a structure, trees’ crowns must be separated by at least 10 feet.
“I don’t feel like this (proposal) represents that (situation),” he said.
Councilman Eric Mamula said it appears the decision for removal will be “more art than science.”
“There is a lot of interpretation still in the ordinance,” he said.
Mayor John Warner said that though concerns remain, he’s hopeful for a solution to the policy.
“I think we’ve made some great strides, personally, in the last three weeks,” he said.
A town staff memo states that the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District is comfortable with the three-year timeframe, as the “serious wildfire threat comes when all dead lodgepole pine trees fall to the ground.”
This is expected within five to 10 years.
As incentive for property owners to create their defensible space earlier, the town is waiving the $45 permit fee for the first year of the program.
Warner said he would like all council members to be present for the defensible-space policy’s final approval and public hearing. Because of upcoming absences, the earliest this would be possible is likely the May 26 meeting.