Baca Grande incorporation sidelined by district court

Courier photo by John Waters The Baca Grande subdivision near Crestone in Saguache County has about 1,200 residents. On Jan. 30, a district court judge dismissed a petition to incorporate the area into a municipality.

SAGUACHE COUNTY — The day after District Judge Crista L. Newmyer-Olsen dismissed a petition filed by the Citizens for Proposed Town of Baca Grande to incorporate the area near Crestone, the proposal is now uncertain.

Lisa Cyriacks, a committee member of the citizens group, told the Valley Courier they are considering their legal options.

"There's the opportunity to appeal or resubmitting a petition; it is under serious consideration. We haven't yet had the opportunity to meet as a group, but I think people are committed. Our motivation is making improvements to the community," said Cyriacks

The Baca Grande Property Owners Association (POA) was formed in 1972 and encompasses over 14,000 acres of land in Saguache County that the citizens group is proposing to incorporate. The Baca, as it is known locally, is divided into 4,550 privately owned lots with 3,500 owners.

Last September, the POA voted to increase assessments by 30% from $493 to $640 levied on each owner's lot. Not all of that is paid to the POA, as about 24% of property owners are not in good standing — they owe money to the association.

In fiscal year 2023, the association reported $2,293,140 in assessment revenue with unpaid assessments of $504,490. Employee expense was $832,282, and legal and professional costs were $358,790.

The association is not an incorporated municipality, relies primarily on assessment fees, and does not have the authority to collect property taxes. If the area were to incorporate, the new town or city could do so, according to Cyriacks.

"We're committed to exploring ways to get funding to expand and improve services in ways the POA is not able to do. That hasn't changed," she said.

The association maintains the 102 miles of roads on the Baca and provides fire and ambulance service for its members. In 2023, the fire and ambulance services received $146,000 in government grant funding.

The idea of incorporating the Baca is not new. In 2003, concerned citizens commissioned a feasibility analysis that gained little tangible traction.

The process to form a municipality is a four-step process. Step One: Petition to district court. Step Two: Incorporation elections. Step Three: Organization of a new city or town. Step Four: Home rule charter. Judge Newmyer-Olsen dismissed step one.

Last August, the Citizens for Proposed Town of Baca Grande submitted a step one petition to the district court to further the idea of incorporating the Baca into a municipality. If approved by the court, an election on the incorporation idea would have moved forward. The POA petitioned the court to dismiss the filing by the citizens group and Judge Crista Newmyer-Olsen agreed.

The Valley Courier has reached out to the Baca Grande Property Owners Association seeking comment and has not received a reply as of press time.

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