A map from Pitkin County showing an area in the county were a private driveway (double-dash lines) serves more than three homes. There are 150 driveways like this in the county that now require a name, which will then force homeowners to change the address of their property. Credit: Pitkin County


Where is Michael
Owsley Drive?

Well, it doesn’t exist yet, but Michael Owsley, the Pitkin County commissioner, joked on Tuesday that it might make a fine name for his driveway off of Woody Creek Road.

Owsley’s driveway — a private road serving three different residences — is one of 150 such driveways in Pitkin County that now require a name. And there are another 55 driveways in various subdivisions that also require new names.

The new rules are in effect after the adoption of an ordinance in November by the county commissioners.

The ordinance requires that private roads serving three or more residences be given a name and that the homes on that road get new house numbers — if necessary.

In any event, the homes would end up with a new address, which can be a headache and a hassle for a homeowner to change.

But the ordinance was passed by the county with the best of intentions — as the commissioners and other officials in the county want to make sure that a firetruck, an ambulance, or a sheriff’s deputy can find one’s house in a snowstorm, at night.

Or, perhaps more likely, that a FedEx driver or a new friend can find your home without touring the whole neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Ginny Bultman of the county’s communications department, which manages 911 calls, reviewed a draft letter to homeowners with the commissioners at a work session.

The letter will soon be sent to those homeowners who need a new street name and a new address.

“This going to be a difficult process,” said Owsley, who suggested that the county planning staff overseeing the change might want to seek out volunteers to come in and go through the steps of getting a new address.

“I’ll volunteer my driveway,” Owsley said lightly. “It has three homes on it. I’ll rename my driveway after myself.”

Some people may not get a chance to volunteer to go through a re-addressing process, as a new home on a shared driveway can trigger a mandatory naming and numbering exercise for every house on the road.

The county is not trying to make private roads public, but it is requiring that private roads that serve three or more homes, or otherwise qualify, be named.

“Names that are appropriate, easy to read, and relate to local history are encouraged,” states Ordinance 031-2012.

The ordinance suggests that roadway names should be based on “local flavor or influence,” historical uses or persons, physical features, or local flora and fauna.

Does “Michael Owsley Drive” qualify? The ordinance does suggest names based on “political persons or events.”

On the other hand, the ordinance notes that “confusion may occur if a descendant of the honored or any individual with the same or similar name resides elsewhere within Pitkin County. Use of individuals’ names as roadway names should be carefully considered prior to adoption.”

Also, no more than 40 characters in the name are allowed.

Owsley and his neighbors may have to get creative. As Commissioner Rachel Richards noted, “the best names will go fast.”

Editor’s note: A version of this story was published in the Aspen Daily News on Jan. 23, 2013.

Brent Gardner-Smith

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...