You cannot comprehend neighborhood politics in Colorado Springs until you realize that our town has two distinctly different types of neighborhoods.
The first type is neighborhoods that have an HOA — a Home Owner’s Association — that determines the design and development of the neighborhood and enforces appropriate rules and regulations. Neighborhoods organized as HOAs tend to be in the newer sections of the city, although some HOAs are decades old. In many instances, the HOA was created by the original developer and builder of the community.
The second type of neighborhood is the older well-established residential areas surrounding downtown Colorado Springs and a bit further out. Their look and character is determined and preserved mainly by city laws, such as zoning regulations and subdivision requirements. We call them “city-government-ruled” neighborhoods.
Let’s start with residential neighborhoods that are organized as HOAs. They are found mainly on the outskirts but within the city limits of Colorado Springs. They principally exist in our city’s newest residential areas, although some housing developments with HOAs have been around for years and are not all that far from our city center.
Neighborhoods with HOAs tend to be upscale economically. The HOA dominated part of our city is large and takes in a lot of territory and a lot of people. As of 2015, some typical HOAs in Colorado Springs were Peregrin, Villa de Mesa, Broadmoor Bluffs, Mid Palmer Park Boulevard, Village Seven, and Pulpit Rock Park.
There is great variety in HOA neighborhoods. Some are populous, have plenty of money, and are run efficiently. Others may be having trouble keeping the interest of their residents and maintaining the flower beds. But by and large, all HOA neighborhoods have an identity and are governed by a board of directors that looks out for the neighborhood’s best interests.
If you buy a home in a neighborhood with an HOA, you have no choice but to be a member of the HOA. You will pay compulsory dues to support the various operations of the HOA, such as shoveling snow or maintaining the streetlights. In some cases, the services of the HOA could be really first rate and really expensive, such as a swimming pool, tennis courts, a children’s playground, an exercise center, or miles of biker-hiker trails.
Most important, your home in an HOA will come with rules and covenants. These are regulations that set such things as lot sizes, front-yard setbacks, single-family requirements, and limits on commercial development. In some HOAs, rules and covenants can be unusually detailed and strictly enforced, such as what color to repaint your house, where on your lot you can park your car, and keeping your lawn mowed and the leaves raked.
A major benefit of buying a home in an HOA neighborhood is that the HOA board of directors will work to keep the neighborhood attractive to look at and with a high quality of life.
As previously noted, there is great variety in HOAs. But most have this in common. They are likely to have their own rules requiring single-family occupancy, forbidding front-yard carports, and outlawing a resident operating a noisy commercial woodworking shop in a three-car garage.
Residents of HOAs do not need to worry when the city government starts talking about legalizing apartments in single-family zones or allowing residents to build and operate mini-hotels (Airbnbs) in their backyards. Most HOAs have their own rules and regulations to see that those things do not happen in the neighborhood.
That brings us to the second type of neighborhood in Colorado Springs — the “city-government-ruled” neighborhoods. This second type is composed of our older neighborhoods mainly located in a large expanded circle around downtown. You know them as such places as the Mesa, Colorado Springs Country Club neighborhood, Mesa Springs, Patty Jewett, Middle Shooks Run, Divine Redeemer, Hillside, Ivywild, etc.
These more center-city neighborhoods get their appearance and character, not from an HOA document, but from zoning and subdivision laws enacted by the city government of Colorado Springs. In addition, dedicated residents voluntarily work to preserve and enhance the unique character of the neighborhood.
Some of these city-government-ruled neighborhoods are among the oldest in our community, such as the Near North End north of downtown or the Old North End north of Colorado College. Others, however, such as Pleasant Valley and Bonnyville, were built immediately after World War II and have a somewhat modern look to their housing.
The look and feel of these neighborhoods is mainly determined by zoning laws. The homes have survived, in some cases for more than a century, because of city enforcement of single-family and two-family zoning. The Old North End in particular has resisted apartment projects and commercial intrusions by repeatedly and vehemently lobbying the Colorado Springs city government to strictly enforce single-family and two-family zoning.
For years zoning worked well as the principal tool for preserving our older well-established neighborhoods. In the past two years, however, the stability and historic preservation of these neighborhoods has been threatened by serious proposals to put apartments into single-family and two-family neighborhoods. There also have been actions to allow more commercial operations, such as Airbnbs, in what are primarily residential areas.
Is this fair? Colorado Springs has one group of neighborhoods, HOAs, which can enforce their own rules for preserving the neighborhood look and character. On the other hand, the city-government-ruled neighborhoods lack such powers to determine their own fates. Their future is at the mercy of city government.
We believe it is important that the city government does not use its zoning and regulatory power to adversely affect the historic and unique character of these older center-city neighborhoods. The first rule of governance, as in medicine, is to do no harm.
We do not see HOA neighborhoods and city-government-ruled neighborhoods competing with each other. They are simply two different ways the city government handles problems of neighborhood stability and historic preservation. Older more historic neighborhoods, however, gaze with envy at the greater powers HOAs have to preserve their character and quality of life.
Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write about Colorado and national political issues.
This content was originally published here.