Second homeowners in Grand County " more important than ever | SkyHiNews.com

Second homeowners in Grand County " more important than ever

Autumn Phillips / From the Editor
aphillips@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County, Colorado

The idea for a series about second-home owners began in early 2008.

It came from a simple look at the numbers ” 65 percent of Grand County residences are second homes. In towns like Grand Lake and Winter Park, that percentage is more than 80 percent.

Which means, at any one time, more than half of Grand County is gone.

This creates a unique set of opportunities and challenges to our local governments and within our economy and social fabric.

Over the year that in-depth look at second-home ownership sat on our “to do” list, we witnessed several things that convinced us this was an important issue.

Second-home owners played a large role in the two elections ” the mayoral election in Grand Lake and the bond election for the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District.

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In the case of Grand Lake, the results of a mayor’s race was nullified when it was suspected that second-home owners voted in the election, despite the fact that their Grand Lake home may not have been a primary residence.

According to state law, property owners of secondary residences are allowed to vote on property tax issues within the special district where they own homes, but not in municipal elections.

Grand Lake actually took its own election to court, the town clerk purged the voter lists herself for voters registered in other places and a “re-do” election doubled voter turnout and changed the results of the election.

Second-home owners are playing a role again in the creation of public policy as towns like Winter Park, Fraser and Grand Lake work to draft a trash removal ordinance that will address the problem of vacation home owners using business Dumpsters for their garbage as they leave Grand County.

The discussion has been on the table for years and the solution seems elusive.

Grand Lake actually drafted an ordinance that requires mandatory trash service for every property in town. Town officials are still dealing with the backlash.

Talk to any second-home owner and you will hear a different side of the story (see today’s article on page 2). Second-home owners see their Grand County residence as their true home in many ways. They live in Cincinnati or Denver because their work is there, but their heart is in Grand County.

They contribute to local non-profits and they pay property taxes that fund services they do not use.

Some feel like social outsiders in a community they hope to someday live in full-time and don’t understand the animosity.

There are two sides to this coin. Our second-home population keeps our economy alive while creating issues that Grand County still hasn’t found a way to resolve.

When it finally came time to write our series about second homes, a lot had changed since the idea first came to the table a year ago.

Most importantly, the economy was hurting and we began to ask ourselves ” is this still important, given the economic downturn?

After much discussion, we decided ” maybe it is more important than ever. If we rely on second-home ownership to create so many jobs in the construction and service industry, what do we do when those homeowners begin to suffer financially? Vacation properties are often the first luxury to go. Maybe now is the time to examine our reliance on them and for them to become more aware of their role in our community.

We also realized that in this economy, the slower pace of growth might give us some breathing room to re-examine the issues and actually come up with some solutions now that some of the pressure is off.

We decided to limit the series to two articles ” one about the issues and one a more personal look at the second-home owners themselves.

It’s a small glimpse at a large issue, but we hope it starts some conversation and increases understanding on both sides.

After reading the two articles, if you have opinions to share or follow-up articles to suggest, feel free to drop me an e-mail at aphillips@skyhidailynews.com, comment on either of the articles online at http://www.skyhidailynews.com or send a letter to the editor to Sky-Hi Daily News, 424 E. Agate Ave., Granby, CO 80446.

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