Oct 23, 2010 1:21 PM by Andy Koen

Property owners outraged by liens filed by defunct assocation

Chuck Burns was skeptical when he got a $600 bill in the mail for delinquent dues to the Colorado City Improvements Corporation. He checked his title paperwork and discovered that he did, in fact, belong to the association.

But in the seven years he had lived in his home, he had never received a bill from the CCIC before or any other correspondence for that matter.

"I was a little scared, I thought I was being targeted as a scam," Burns said.

So, he refused to pay. Then this summer a lien was put on his property. The same thing happened to his neighbor Bob Ugolini, but there was nothing in his paperwork that suggested he was a member of the association.

Over the summer, the CCIC file over 400 liens on property owners in Colorado City.

"They've got a cash cow going and they don't want it to stop is what I think," Burns said.

Karen Blackwood is the president of the association and has diligently paid the associations $95 a year dues since buying a property in 1999. She's also the one signing all the liens.

Blackwood says membership to the association comes with ownership and that Burns, Ugolini and the others are obligated to pay.

"You can't pick and choose. I mean, we're all in this association and we all have to follow the bylaws that are in place right now."

According to its bylaws, the Colorado City Improvements Corporation was formed to improve, regulate and maintain roads for property owners in the community.

The problem is no roads actually exist. And unlike Chuck and Bob, most of the property owners in the association own lots that they can't build on.

There is no water, no power and none of the lots are even close enough together to make it feasible for the Colorado City Metro District to install utilities.

"They're all over the place," explains district manager David Valdez. "The closest waterline may be 10, 15 even 20 miles away; we're not talking a hundred feet, two hundred feet or even four hundred feet."

At a cost of $200 per foot of waterline to install, the price tag to install the plumbing is much too high for the small district.

Blackwood says many people have just given up on their properties. The lots are sold at tax sales and the new owners are caught unaware of the association and its dues. She believes filing liens will break that cycle.

"If there's a lien on the property due to a delinquency then now a prospective buyer, if they do their homework and a title company would catch that, they would see that there is a lot and now they are educated."

Regardless, Burns says the association has no legal grounds to even exist. For one thing, there are no roads to maintain, which is the association's sole duty.

He also points out that the association is required to notify members and present them copies of the rules and regulations when the property is purchased. Neither he nor Ugolini were given copies when they purchased.

The association is also required to refund any unused expenses to the property owners at the end of each year which also has never happened.

Ugolini contacted his title company and they are now paying the delinquent dues for his property to clear the lien.

Blackwood says since becoming president of the association in 2008 she has attempted to hold votes to dissolve the corporation and be done with the $95 annual dues, but not enough members voted.

A second vote is being taken, with a mailing deadline of December 31, 2010. Delinquent members are prevented from participating. If the vote succeeds, Blackwood says the association will return a majority of the money to the property owners in good standing.

There are still mailing services and legal fees to account for, but Blackwood says any remaining funds that exist in the account will be donated to the Pueblo City-County Library District.



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