By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
According to a report in The Gazette, disabled veteran Chris Sweeney is fed up. For four years, Sweeney has been navigating his wheelchair over and around blocked and broken sidewalks with missing curb cuts.
But even after numerous reports and complaints have been filed, no one has been willing to own most of the problems, and take steps necessary to bring the Stetson Hills community up to federal ADA accessibility standards.
The root of the problem goes back to 1999. The City of Colorado Springs somehow approved construction of non-ADA compliant sidewalks and shorter-than-required driveways.
The City is not responsible for maintaining sidewalks, so it passes the buck to Stetson HIlls Master Home Owners Association. Sweeney accuses his HOA of dragging its feet addressing construction deficiencies on community-owned sidewalks, making “bare minimum” repairs, while still leaving barriers such as gaping holes and orphan curb cuts that make it difficult to safely travel sidewalks and intersections in his wheelchair.
And then there’s the pervasive problem of vehicles blocking Stetson Hills sidewalks.
Sweeney says that up until recently, HOA rules prohibited parking of vehicles on the street, forcing residents and visitors to park in driveways that were supposed to be long enough to accommodate today’s larger vehicles. But because many of the driveways are short, full size vehicles, trucks, and SUVs stick out over the sidewalk, blocking wheelchair access.
Last July (2017), prompted by years of complaints, the HOA finally did enact a new parking policy allowing exceptions to parking on the street.
However, homeowners and tenants that want to park on the street are required by the HOA to apply for a “parking exception permit.”
A permit is only approved by the association if the resident is using up every available parking space in the garage and driveway, and then only if the resident can document that the driveway is too short to accommodate personal vehicles without blocking the sidewalk.
The policy does not address parking for overnight visitors, nor the potential shortage of daytime parking on the street.
The details are spelled out in the SHMHOA policy:
Source:www.stetsonhillshoa.com/stetsonhills/document_view.asp?id=178 (Mar. 1, 2018)
To confuse the situation even more, residents are instructed to contact HOA Management (currently, Diversified Property Management LLC.) with regard to overnight street parking violations only.
All other parking violations, including vehicles parked in driveways, but blocking the sidewalk, are to be reported to Colorado Springs Police Department
Sweeney says that CSPD often takes hours to respond to calls about such parking violations.
With all the finger pointing among the city, the HOA, and its manager, very little has been done to resolve the problem.
And, unfortunately, because Sweeney has been vocal about his rights to accessibility, he has been branded the neighborhood malcontent. The disabled veteran says that the leaders of his HOA and his neighbors have a history of harassing his family, some neighbors even mocking his disability.
Frustrated by limited accessibility in his own neighborhood, Sweeney is suing the city of Colorado Spring, Stetson Hills Master HOA, and Diversified Property Management LLC. He is represented by Attorney Julian G.G. Wolfson of Denver.
DISABLED VET’S LAWSUIT ACCUSES COLORADO SPRINGS, NEIGHBORS OF VIOLATING ACCESSIBILITY LAWS
By: Conrad Swanson February 25, 2018 Updated: February 26, 2018 at 6:22 am
Rolling his wheelchair to the edge of a six-foot gap in the sidewalk near his home in eastern Colorado Springs, Chris Sweeney grabbed a collapsed “sidewalk out” sign and shoved it under his arm.
He used the improvised crutch to cross the gaping hole and plopped himself back into his wheelchair, which his wife had pushed to the other side.
“This is a big ‘f— you’ from the city,” Sweeney said.
Fifty yards to the north he repeated the exercise.
After four years of these problems in his Stetson Hills neighborhood, Sweeney said he’s had enough. On Feb. 15, he and his wife, Nikole Sweeney, filed a lawsuit against the city and others. They allege that Colorado Springs is woefully out of compliance with federal laws demanding equal access for the disabled.
Under the law, Colorado Springs must abide by ADA regulations in residential areas, Wolfson said. To many, including the Sweeneys, curb ramps and sidewalks “obviously are necessary to reach various public accommodations.”
Colorado Springs spokeswoman Kim Melchor said the city has done all it can and no longer bears any responsibility for Sweeney’s accessibility concerns. Instead, the homeowners association might be the only organization that can help, she said.
But Sweeney said the association is part of the problem. Its rules prohibit parking in the street, and residents forced to park in short driveways often block the sidewalk with their vehicles. When the group was confronted, its members either dragged their feet to perform the bare minimum of services or flat out refused to help, he said.
Members of the association have ridiculed the family, questioned Sweeney’s disability and his service to the country and released his private health care information to the public, he said.