October 11, 2007
Kissing Camels Estates, which overlooks Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, may be the area’s most prestigious and exclusive gated community and golf/tennis/social club.
Behind its guardhouse off Mesa Road are 550 custom homes and townhomes along a sprawling, wooded 27-hole golf course. It has a 108-room club complex and recreation center with 13 tennis courts, pools and a fleet of golf carts. Old money or new, the dress code still applies in the Garden of the Gods Club dining room, and children are tolerated but not encouraged in the “adult-oriented environment.” In other words, it’s everything you’d expect in a wealthy enclave. What you might not expect is that Kissing Camels, like less-exotic neighborhoods, has folks who feud with the homeowners association board. Neighbors revolted when Sunrise Co., which recently paid $24.7 million for the Garden of the Gods Club and Kissing Camels Estates, ousted the previous HOA board, installed its own officers and announced big changes at Kissing Camels. Angry residents stormed an HOA meeting in August. They were so disruptive, witnesses say, the board adjourned abruptly to let tempers cool. By Tuesday night, at a special board meeting attended by hundreds, folks had calmed down. It helped that Sunrise, a California golf course developer, backed off and allowed election of a new, larger ninemember board, including six homeowners. Sunrise also dropped controversial plans to build bridges over Mesa Road and Fillmore Street. They were to provide private access from Al Hill’s elite community, clubhouse and recreation center — which opened in 1951 — to 300 acres, west and south, where Sunrise wants to build 700 homes. But many issues remain. “There is a strip of incredible evergreen trees that have been there 60 years along Kissing Camels Drive,” resident Susan Baker said. “They want to tear all those out and build houses.” Others are upset at plans to remove an indoor tennis building and two outdoor courts. “We’ve met with Sunrise and tried to persuade them to make sure there is an indoor tennis court somewhere,” resident William Madden said. “Their attitude is that tennis players aren’t very important.” Some fear new homes will block their views. Others worry about plans to build 50 homes in and around the golf course. “If you played golf the way I do, you wouldn’t buy one of those houses,” said Steven Durham, a resident and newly elected board member. He was joking, but issues facing Kissing Camels are serious, especially plans to finance millions of dollars in club upgrades by charging residents who aren’t club members. “If I want improvements to the club, I should be willing to pay for them,” he said. “Not put them on the backs of people who are not members.” But he and others are hopeful Sunrise’s new attitude and the friendly tone of Tuesday’s meeting bodes well for Kissing Camels and will lead to a return to leisurely games of golf and peaceful dinners. In coats and ties, of course. And, hopefully, without kids. Tell me about your neighborhood: 636-0193 or firstname.lastname@example.org