For years, Gina Hyatt, longtime Gunbarrel Green HOA board member, has been warning us about forced annexation by the City of Boulder. I didn’t pay that much attention until recently. Gina sent me a large batch of documents and correspondence, and I’ve done some of my own research. This is what I’ve discovered. (This is my opinion; Gina isn’t involved.)
Most annexations in Colorado are by request from the property owner, but forced annexations are also possible. According to the Colorado Constitution, Article II (Bill of Rights), Section 30:
No unincorporated area may be annexed to a municipality unless one of the following conditions first has been met:
[conditions (a) and (b) not shown]
(c) The area is entirely surrounded by or is solely owned by the annexing municipality.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) have to do with annexations by vote and by petition; it’s (c) that covers forced annexations.
So, the two questions are:
- Is Gunbarrel Green, where I live, surrounded or is the larger part of Gunbarrel not already in the City surrounded?
- If we are surrounded, does the City want to annex us?
First, question 1. Here’s a rough map of the City (gray area) and Gunbarrel Green:
It seems that we’re not surrounded. If you’re curious about exactly where the City is around us, here’s a more precise map:
Now, as for Gunbarrel not being surrounded, the City limits don’t tell the whole story. Look at City-owned open space, shown in this map by the light green areas:
Between the City itself and the open space it owns, we’re nearly surrounded already. Maybe Gunbarrel Green isn’t, but a larger area including several subdivisions, one of which is Heatherwood, is. The Country Club is in there, too.
I don’t know whether the City-owned open space is considered the City as far as us being surrounded goes, but it doesn’t matter, because the City can annex property it owns.
So, are we surrounded? Almost. And whatever openings there are could be easily plugged eventually by the City, either through annexation or purchase. Or, they might argue that a 95% surround is close enough. (I think there’s a court case along similar lines involving Colorado Springs, but I’m not a lawyer.)
Now for question #2: Does the City want to annex us? Yes, certainly. Many City officials have been talking that way. I heard this directly from City Councilperson Matt Applebaum once. And in a 30-June-2016 letter to Gina Hyatt, Jay Sugnet, Project Manager in the City of Boulder Department of Planning, Housing, and Sustainability, said this:
Although interest in voluntary annexation has been limited, the city and county continue to support the eventual annexation of Gunbarrel. If resident interest in annexation does occur in the future, the city and county will negotiate new terms of annexation with the residents.
So, we have this much:
- Boulder can already legally forcibly annex Gunbarrel, or will be able to in the future.
- They want to annex us, and are willing to negotiate.
Will they annex us if we absolutely hate the idea, start campaigning against it, and the Country Club decides to put its resources behind fighting it? Maybe, maybe not. All of that might just cause a delay of a few months or a few years.
But, as the title of this post says, annexation is inevitable. There is a will and a way.
Assuming Gunbarrel residents are against annexation, and I think almost all of us are, what can we do about it? When the time comes, we could hire lawyers and fight it. A good lawyer might say something like: “You’ll most likely lose this case, but I would be happy to take $30,000 from you if you insist.” Another lawyer might just take the money without saying anything, or might even say we have a slam-dunk case. Which I think is wrong. What I, a non-lawyer, think is that once we’re surrounded, we have no legal case at all.
My suggestion is along different lines entirely. We should ask to be annexed, but with conditions, and the City has invited us to negotiate. I think a forced annexation might have to include all of unincorporated Gunbarrel, but an annexation on request could be limited to just Gunbarrel Green.
If we do make such a request, we have negotiating power, especially if we go first. Once we’re forced, negotiating power mostly goes away. We could require some conditions, such as:
- No assessments for sidewalks or any other infrastructure improvements.
- The City won’t put in sidewalks or make any other changes to the character of the neighborhood.
- The Covenants remain in force.
- No requirement to replace wood roofs or make any other structural changes to houses for at least 10 years.
- A traffic light at Idylwild and Lookout.
Our taxes go up, but we get some City services we’re not getting now, and we get to vote in City elections.
You might be thinking: Why should I agree to this? I don’t want to be in the City, with higher taxes. I want to stay in the County!
But, as I said, annexation is inevitable, so it’s not a matter of when or if, but how. I say let’s get what we can out of it. I don’t want assessments, I don’t want to replace my roof right now, and I’d like that traffic light. I’ve lived in the City of Boulder before, and I liked it. I’m sure it will be just fine.