This weekend, the Denver Post included a story regarding certain legal issues related to the rebuilding of the Colorado Springs homes destroyed by wildfires, many of which were located in covenant controlled communities. As noted in the article, many of those communities have architectural review committees, but given the amount of destruction it is not clear how effective the processes that are in place will be to maintain a cohesive neighborhood architecture. While we watch this situation unfold, communities in areas that are prone to wildfires should take this opportunity to revisit their covenants and ask some important questions about their architectural guidelines and covenants in the context of wildfire danger.
— Are the architectural guidelines comprehensive enough?
— If the covenants allow owners to repair and/or rebuild without approval from the architectural review committee so long as it is done in a manner consistent with what was originally built, how does the architectural review committee determine what was there prior to the casualty? The answer is pretty clear when homeowners are simply repainting their house. But, if the house was completely destroyed, making that determination is much more difficult, especially if the architectural review committee does not have a historical file for the property (which would most likely be the case if no major work has been done on the home since the developer originally built it).
— Even if the covenants as drafted adequately address a complete rebuild, is the architectural review committee strong enough – both organizationally and financially – to enforce the covenants? Is a new committee with additional assessments and/or additional powers – or a new entity with the authority to tax, such as a special district, as mentioned in the article – the answer when the entire neighborhood will need an overhaul?
— Do the covenants and/or architectural guidelines include fire suppression measures, such as brush and debris removal and distance between structures and tree plantings?
We will continue to watch as this situation develops in Colorado Springs.