Residents of Pan Ark Estates near Twin Lakes could vote in November on whether their properties will become part of a taxing special district. The matter was passed along for another stage of review with Lake County District Court last week after the Board of County Commissioners approved a proposed service plan for the would-be special district.
About 40 Pan Ark Estates residents attended last week’s four-hour public hearing of the service plan, and another 40 participated virtually. Proponents of the special district spoke of dangerous road conditions and unpaid voluntary property dues from more than half of the subdivision’s homeowners, while nay-sayers primarily took issue with a hike in taxes.
Attorney Joe Norris, who represents the proponents of the special district, presented the proposed service plan to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) last week, stating that the special district tax would cost about $114 for every $100,000 in assessed value of a property. Norris added that the funds would go primarily toward road maintenance, and that the proponents are not proposing to offer any other services at this time.
For residents voting in favor of the special district in November, the ballot measure will also ask that property owners identify a suitable five-person board to govern the district. That board would then have the power to allocate funds from a proposed $100,000 annual budget to hire a road maintenance crew and buy equipment, among other responsibilities.
Pan Ark Estates currently relies on a three-person volunteer crew that conducts road maintenance, like snow plowing and grating, with discretionary annual property dues from residents. The dues –– $200 per home or $100 per vacant lot –– are collected by the Pan Ark Estates Homeowners Association (PAEHOA), whose treasurer, Susan Johnson, said that while dues have increased lately, there is still not enough money to maintain roads on a regular basis. Johnson added that PAEHOA has not been able to receive loans to purchase equipment because the organization cannot guarantee how much money it will raise every year.
The issue of PAEHA not having the authority to collect property dues dates back to Pan Ark Estates’ beginnings in 1962 when founders did not stipulate collection power in the subdivision’s covenants. Several years later, an application was filed with the Lake County Clerk and Recorder’s Office to alter the covenants, but the filer neglected to collect signatures from at least half of the residents at the time. PAEHA Director Dayrl Manning said that instead of trying again to alter the covenants, the organization is pursuing a solution that is meant to be indefinite.
While the means of providing service are debated, Pan Ark Estates residents largely agree that road maintenance must be addressed. Steep road grades can be slick and dangerous during winter months, while heavy rains, like those Lake County has experienced this summer, leave roads flooded with deep trenches. A representative of the Mount Elbert Water Association and Pan Ark resident, Jeff Johnson, added at last week’s meeting that improper snow storage and road maintenance has contributed to water infrastructure damage beneath the roads. And as more and more homes are built in the area, the problems are only getting worse.
“I absolutely agree that something needs to be done,” said Tommie Hill, a nearly 30-year resident of Pan Ark Estates. “I just don’t think this is the best way of going about it.”
Hill, along with 59 other residents, filed a proposition to exclude their properties from the proposed special district; however, BOCC denied the 59 applications during a special meeting on Monday, stating that it would be impossible to exclude tax-exempt properties from the public benefit of road maintenance.
“This is double taxation,” said Hill, referring to the county taxes that Pan Ark Estates residents already pay, despite Lake County Public Works and Maintenances’ inability to access and service the subdivision’s roads. “Some families in Pan Ark who are trying to raise kids and pay for a home can’t afford more taxes.” Hill added that he is concerned dissenters will not show at the polls in November, and that communication between PAEHA and residents needs to improve whether the measure passes or not.
Those in favor of the special district said that all property owners should contribute to funding road maintenance. “I’m tired of carrying the weight of those who don’t want to chip in,” said Doug Bruce, a Pan Ark Estates resident. Other proponents cited public safety as their reason for supporting the special district.
Chris Keelan, president of PAEHA, said during last week’s public hearing that she had a friend who died of a heart attack in Pan Ark Estates because a responding ambulance got stuck trying to access her home. Another resident of nearly 40 years said he owned a home in Pan Ark Estates that burned to the ground because a fire truck could not reach his property in time to extinguish the flames.
“We can’t go on this way,” said Keelan. “We need the revenue. And if this doesn’t pass, the volunteers will no longer take on the responsibility of maintaining roads.”
Now that the BOCC has approved the proposed service plan, the proponents of the special district must collect signatures before filing with Lake County District Court, where the matter will receive final review for approval or denial. From there, Pan Ark Estates residents who are registered to vote in Colorado can show up at the polls in November to determine the neighborhood’s future.