Guest commentary: The Woody Creek Experience under APCHA is unreasonable
In Woody Creek, we believe in employee housing. We appreciate home-sales prices low enough for us to buy in. But despite our best efforts to take care of our village, it is in peril because of the influence of APCHA:
1. We receive no subsidies and no part of our infrastructure or property is owned by APCHA.
2. The full burden of “affordable” housing here is on us, the worker/disabled/retired residents, including 100% of the free-market costs of maintaining water and sewer systems and all other infrastructure, and funding the capital replacement reserve.
3. The value of our properties is set by APCHA, who seizes and makes worthless up to tens of thousands of dollars of value per property, leaving our total residential valuation stagnant and sometimes dropping.
Our water and sewer (streets, street lights, garbage, etc.) Special District (The Woody Creek Metropolitan District or WC Metro) depends on property tax income to provide the community’s infrastructure and services. Currently, the Metro charges 72 mils plus $63 a month per home, already exceeding DOLAs average-and-expected of 64 mils, and it is not enough. I do not know how much more cost burden the residents here can bear.
APCHA’s dealings with us are unreasonable. The values here, categorically and individually, are cut in opaque, fluid, unilateral ways.
When we brought our concerns about the devaluations — and the resulting problem of the shortfall of our WC Metro budget — to the attention of the deputy director of APCHA, her reply was: “That’s none of your business.” So, the elected and appointed officials of the WC Metro called meetings with a wider array of executives and staff of both APCHA and Pitkin County, and explained over and over again the facts and why this will not work. We asked that either a budget allocation from APCHA or the county be made to make up for the property tax income shortfalls, or to let the property values raise or at least stabilize them, to no avail.
Frustrated, we turned to the APCHA’s governing documents to see if there were any clues on how to address this serious problem, and learned that APCHA is not only free from working with or notifying homeowners, it runs free of oversight or direction from anyone we elect — from the directors of the WC Metro to the Pitkin County assessor (who accepts valuations for our properties from APCHA, no questions asked) and commissioners (even those on the APCHA Board of Directors serve only recommendation and advisory roles).
Not ready to give up, we turned to the law, and have been informed that in our village in the heart of Woody Creek, APCHA’s Master Deed Restriction Agreement is attached to and runs with the land, controlling the value of our properties, absolutely.
Now our resources are exhausted. That’s unfortunate, because this is not right.
The unreasonableness of the limitations of these deed restrictions, and the way and by which they are carried out, cannot be legal.
Additionally, the rights granted U.S. property owners by Constitution (amendments V and XIV); along with the powers vested in the WC Metro by the state of Colorado, must overwhelm the regulations of a remote organization. An organization directed by a city whose constituents are many miles and standards of living away.
Even if the deed restrictions are determined to be legal, they are immoral and dysfunctional, and send this community of workers and budding families down the road of unstable financing and failing infrastructure.
We are subjects of the city of Aspen, which only takes (land value) and does not support (by any means).
Peg O’Brien of Woody Creek is the founder of WC Community Center Free Clinic and previously the WC Caucus moderator and WC HOA director. She also is co-founder of the Woody Creek Metro District.