By Mike McKibbin / NewsBreak Denver / March 14, 2023
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] — Douglas County Commissioners Monday criticized an under-the-radar bill in last year's Colorado legislative session that banned homeowners associations from enforcing parking and other restrictions on public streets.
A memo to the commissioners stated the bill's passage resulted in the county receiving several inquiries from concerned homeowners and HOAs regarding the county's role in enforcing prior HOA covenants or adopting its own regulations consistent with those covenants.
Previously, HOAs were allowed to create and enforce covenants concerning certain uses in public rights of way. Those included parking and storing recreational vehicles, campers, boats and work vehicles. They could also limit how long vehicles could be parked, the maximum weight of vehicles parked, where trash cans could be placed for pickup and how long the cans could remain in the right of way.
According to the memo, several HOA management companies reported parking complaints rank high on their lists of calls received. Lawmakers likely considered the bill in response to those complaints.
Sheriff’s department concerned about staffing
Sgt. Jeff Burke, a traffic unit supervisor for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, told the commissioners unless a safety issue was involved in a parking situation, deputies would not likely issue a $15 ticket.
"We don't have a whole lot of crashes due to parked cars," he said. "Safety is paramount, but we don't look at the aesthetics of a situation like that."
Matt Williams, assistant director of public works engineering, agreed a situation "would have to be pretty egregious" to have a deputy respond to such a complaint.
Burke also said if deputies are assigned to such parking calls, it would lead to a staffing issue in responding to more urgent calls.
The county currently regulates parking under an ordinance designed to "promote the general public welfare and safety by imposing and enforcing reasonable and necessary traffic and parking restrictions in the county."
The ordinance adopts the 2020 Model Traffic Code. Generally, it covers parking restrictions related to abandoned vehicles and safety, such as parking on sidewalks, within an intersection, proximity to driveways, fire hydrants, crosswalks and stop signs.
The ordinance does not prohibit vehicles typically prohibited by HOA covenants, such as recreational vehicles, campers, boats, and work vehicles.
Commissioners differ in opposition
Commissioner George Teal noted a "patchwork quilt" of HOA covenants related to parking, making enforcement by the sheriff's department more difficult.
"It would be a fool's errand because there would be a too harsh or too easy approach taken in different neighborhoods," he said.
Commissioner Abe Laydon wondered if there would be support to repeal the bill and reinstate local control by the HOAs.
"I wish we could unwind the clock on this," he said. "But I'm also not sure how much we could accomplish with this (Democratically-controlled) legislature."
Commissioner Lora Thomas noted she has lived in covenant-controlled Highlands Ranch for 24 years.
"I knew what I was getting, and I agreed to it," she said. "Now the state is preventing the HOA from enforcing the covenants I wanted. I think the only solution is another law."
Teal opposed the county supporting such a change.
"HOAs are inherently private contractors and I think a line should be drawn," he said.
Teal also noted unincorporated communities like Highlands Ranch, Stonegate and others can incorporate as municipalities and develop their own laws and enforcement.
Thomas said she had attended incorporation meetings in Highlands Ranch that had yet to result in enough support to proceed with that change.
"I was happy with where things were until the legislature did this," she added.