County orders dogs off luxury subdivision ranch | AspenTimes.com

County orders dogs off luxury subdivision ranch

Say what you will about Lazy O Ranch, just don’t say it’s going to the dogs.

Residents of the luxury subdivision had until Dec. 1 to “relocate” Fido and any other canine friends. Pitkin County warned homeowners there recently that a restriction on dogs will be strictly enforced.

“If you fail to comply with this notice, or dogs are seen on your property after November 30, 2002, regardless of ownership, the matter will be referred to the County Attorney’s office for further enforcement,” Pitkin County zoning officer Joanna Schaffner wrote to the Lazy O homeowners.

The county government isn’t trying to nitpick or single out Lazy O Ranch, Schaffner said. The dog restriction was part of the subdivision’s protective covenants when the county commissioners approved a development application for the ranch. Only the ranch manager can have a dog or dogs, and they must be in a kennel when not used for ranch operations.

“The condition was clear from the git-go,” said Schaffner.

It was necessary because the ranch is in “valuable and sensitive wildlife habitat,” especially for deer and elk, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Lazy O Ranch is located at the “T” intersection of Snowmass and Capitol creek roads, about three miles off Highway 82.

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@ATD Sub heds:Restrictions common, enforcement isn’t

@ATD body copy: The restriction on dogs isn’t uncommon in the county approval process. Conditions such as kenneling or an outright ban are standard when a property is in a sensitive wildlife area, Schaffner said.

Critics have said the restrictions are often useless because they cannot be enforced. The county doesn’t have the staff to police subdivisions to see if dogs are lurking.

County officials acknowledge they must rely on complaints to enforce dog restrictions or bans. And in the case of Lazy O Ranch, a claim was made in June 2002 that dogs were kept in at least four homes in the subdivision. Schaffner wouldn’t disclose who filed the complaint, citing county policy.

The Lazy O Homeowners Association responded to a county inquiry with an application to amend the protective covenant to allow dog ownership. That application was pulled before a hearing was held this fall by the Pitkin County commissioners.

“They withdrew because they found no one would support it,” said Schaffner.

@ATD Sub heds:Hassle for wildlife

@ATD body copy: Two letters opposing relaxed dog restrictions were filed by wildlife experts. State wildlife officer Kevin Wright wrote that the ranch provides important winter range and migration routes for deer and elk.

“Lazy O contains some valuable and sensitive wildlife habitat, especially in the basin where the homes are tucked along the agricultural fields and at the base of the mountain shrub hillside,” Wright wrote.

When dogs are allowed in rural areas, they are often allowed to run free, the wildlife officer observed. Kennel restrictions are rarely enforced.

“This has a tremendous impact to wildlife and starts to greatly expand the zone of influence around a home site or subdivision,” Wright wrote in his letter. “I do not believe that recommendations made to minimize wildlife impacts should be removed.”

Pitkin County wildlife biologist Jonathan Lowsky also advised sticking with the dog ban.

“Although most homeowners would likely heed the kennel restrictions proposed by the applicant, all it takes are a few digressions for wildlife to abandon habitat when disturbed by dogs,” Lowsky wrote. “Consequently, it is likely that both deer and elk would suffer a significant loss of effective habitat should dogs be permitted at the residences at Lazy O Ranch.”

The ban was also supported by the Snowmass Creek Caucus, a property owners’ group.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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