Carolyn Costanza: Not a great plan: Breckenridge defensible space ordinance |

Carolyn Costanza: Not a great plan: Breckenridge defensible space ordinance

Carolyn Costanza

The more I talk to different people in the town of Breckenridge, the more concerned I am about the defensible space ordinance recently passed by the town council. I’ve really studied the actual ordinance and what the definition of defensible space is in black and white “the establishment and maintenance of a firebreak within 30 feet around a building or structure and a reduced fuel zone extending up to 75 feet or greater.” I checked the definition of firebreak, and it is a cleared area to help prevent spread of fire. What I was told by some residents is that the Historic District is exempt from the ordinance even though there are trees well within the 30 foot area. Then I was told aspens were exempt but there is nothing in the ordinance about any exemptions.

There is also a provision for irrigated trees, etc., and I remember when the town was adamant that we live in a mountain community and not Denver and didn’t want irrigated lawns. We are always being reminded of the water shortage up here and how we should limit our usage. This is all left to the discretion of the inspector that comes out to review your property. I can really understand the intent of this ordinance, but the way it is written it is very flawed and subjective. I realize that roads and driveways around a house can in itself help serve as a firebreak but that can be subjective also. When you have a person determining which trees have to go and which can stay, there is always room for politics – and what will happen should that person leave for some reason?

There is also a requirement for an annual cleanup of tall grasses, leaf clutter and dead branches on living trees. Dead branches on living trees shall be removed a minimum of 6 feet above grade. Who is going to continually monitor all the properties in Breckenridge and what about the added cost to the town or the homeowner to be in compliance with this ordinance? There are also legal ramifications when you go to sell your home to insure the defensible space is addressed.

As I said, I understand the intent of the ordinance and everybody should clean up around their house for their own safety and insurance purposes. What really worries me is the town open space behind my house that is full of dead and dying beetle kill trees that are falling and causing a floor buildup of dry needles and branches and they told me they didn’t have the money to do anything about it.

If you are a voting resident of Breckenridge and see a person at the post office or around town with a defensible space sign and petition, please stop and sign the petition to get the town to reconsider this ordinance or take it to a vote of the people.

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