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Gazette Premium Content SIDE STREETS: Burning issues rip apart Crystal Park

BILL VOGRIN Updated: April 23, 2010 at 12:00 am

Old-timers may recall Crystal Park as the 2,000-acre development above Manitou Springs that nearly became a Texas state park in 1975. (Don’t believe it? See my blog.)

A short time later, it made headlines as the subdivision “dedicated to God” and called the Crystal Park Christian Community.

The Christian thing was dropped years later, and now it’s just another gated neighborhood protected by covenants and a homeowners association.

Ready for another bizarre Crystal Park story?

Today, its residents are at war because the 2007 HOA board created a volunteer fire department to provide emergency medical treatment and fire protection to the 220 homes built amid thick forest and along narrow, twisting roads on the hard-to-reach slopes of Crystal Park.

People living in a remote, high-risk wildfire zone don’t want a fire department?

It’s true. Three residents upset about the fire department campaigned together and won, taking control of the  HOA board last August.

Today, the board is facing possible recall by folks who believe the risk of wildfire is very real and they need trained firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, as well as trucks, tankers and other equipment, at the ready.

Seems to me the geography of Crystal Park is mostly to blame for the war.

The folks who oppose the fire department live in the lower region of the park, where Manitou Springs Fire crews can reach them in 10 to 15 minutes, generally.

Those who want the fire department, who got trained and certified, who assembled the trucks and who serve, mostly live in the upper region where it can take 35 to 45 minutes for Manitou crews to arrive. That's a long time when you are having a heart attack or something is burning.

They say the new board will do anything to dismantle the fire department, even hold secret board meetings to conduct HOA business.

Even worse, they say, the board excluded the lone board member who lives in the upper park and supports the fire department.

The secrecy led two board members to quit and prompted the recall.

The allegations of illegal meetings and board actions are detailed on a website, crystalparkblog.info. Supporters say they have nearly all the 181 proxies they need to oust the board.

Are lower park residents simply selfish, as some residents allege? Are they angry the board acted without their input? Are there valid reasons for the opposition?

HOA president Sharon Rozwick declined to talk to me. A three-page letter the board sent didn’t answer my questions. It alleges rogue residents acted without permission. And it ranted about missing documents and conflicts of interest. It’s posted on my blog.

Supporters say money isn’t an issue. An existing mill levy covers the fire department’s needs, as well as the $10,000 annual fee paid to Manitou for protection.

It makes me wonder what the issue really is.

Read my blog updates at
 gazette.com/blogs/sidestreets

 

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