3 trailer owners excluded from land-ownership plan
Aspen Times Staff Writer
At least three trailer owners in Woody Creek have been left wondering why they’re being left out of the bonanza.
Alan Becker, Edward Brennan and Jon Peters all own trailers at the trailer park next to the Woody Creek Tavern. Currently, the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority is transferring ownership of the land under the trailers to residents and qualified buyers.
The three unlucky trailer owners have been told by the housing authority, which owns the land, to remove their trailers because the lots they sit on are being eliminated. And to add insult to injury, the staff at the housing authority has said it has no money to compensate them for their loss.
Becker, who owns two trailers, would like to be compensated for his loss, and he’s been dismayed with the changing terms of the housing authority’s plans. When the issue was first raised last summer, Becker said he was promised compensation. But about two weeks ago he was told that he needed to leave and no money would be forthcoming.
“This answer I’ve been getting – that the reason they won’t compensate me is that they don’t have any money – isn’t a very good answer,” Becker said.
The housing authority says that it was careful in selecting which trailer owners to exclude as it proceeds with the transfer. All three are in violation of the housing authority’s conditions for becoming a property owner in the trailer park.
Victoria Giannola, a housing authority planner, noted that the housing authority is reconsidering Becker’s and Brennan’s cases, which have been put on the next housing board agenda. They may end up seeing some compensation for the fact that they own trailers on some of the most valuable trailer-park lots in the nation.
“We’re at a conceptual stage right now,” Giannola said. “The housing board could decide not to eliminate the lots and compensate the owners.”
The Woody Creek Trailer Park is being converted from a classic trailer park, where residents rent the land under their trailer, to a platted subdivision where residents own their own lots.
The site was first identified for purchase by Pitkin County in the early 1990s, Giannola said. The county set aside money at the time to go towards purchase. It wasn’t until 1998, after a bitter legal battle that ended with the county undertaking condemnation procedures against park-owner Mary Jane Garth, that the housing authority, with financial help from the city of Aspen, gained control of the land.
Even though it has owned the park for three years, the housing authority has had difficulty completing the transfer. One big issue blocking the way is an over-taxed septic system. The state of Colorado has directed the county to build a new treatment plant for the trailer park before transferring ownership to the residents. Attempts to comply have been dogged by the costs and neighborhood opposition.
But the issue that stinks worse than a broken septic system for Becker, Brennan and Peters is the platting process.
Platting is the process by which property lines in a subdivision are drawn. Currently, there are 52 trailers at the park. In order to transfer ownership, the housing authority needs to draw lines that delineate each and every private lot.
The Pitkin County commissioners eliminated the easy solution of turning existing rental lots into ownership lots last fall. At the behest of Patti Clapper, a resident of Smuggler Trailer Park, the commissioners directed Giannola to create lots in the neighborhood of 3,000 square feet.
That meant the current configuration needed to be reconfigured. Giannola said nine existing lots are being eliminated, but five new ones have been created at the upvalley end of the park. That leaves four out – two owned by Becker and one each by Brennan and Peters.
Giannola said Brennan’s lot was chosen because it has been vacant for the better part of the last year. Brennan lived in the trailer for years, but moved to the East Coast last year after becoming too ill to care for himself. His daughter and son-in-law live in Rifle, and they are trying to sort the situation out, according to an acquaintance of the family who asked not to be named in this article.
State and federal laws prohibit Brennan’s trailer, which was built in 1957, from being moved to another site in the state of Colorado. It is currently listed for sale for $29,000.
Peters is reportedly a Hollywood film producer and the former husband of Barbara Streisand. He lives in Los Angeles and maintains a personal staff. The facts that Peters lives elsewhere and has a sizable fortune make him an unlikely candidate for acceptance into the area’s subsidized housing program.
An acquaintance of Peters said he is trying to sell his trailer in the neighborhood of $60,000, although she said she didn’t think it would go for that much.
Becker’s lots were selected because he owns a home in Aspen. The housing authority regulations don’t allow owners in the affordable housing program to own free-market property in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Becker said he doesn’t mind giving up his trailers. He said he lived in one of the trailers for 13 years, from 1989 until last month. He recently moved into the accessory-dwelling unit behind the Victorian home he owns in Aspen, which is rented on the free market.
“Woody Creek has been great for me as a springboard into this community,” Becker said. He said that the affordability of the trailer park allowed him to save enough money from his work as a professional photographer to purchase a home in Aspen in 1996.
Now, Becker would like to sell the trailers and invest the money into his property in Aspen. One of the trailers is on the market for about $75,000, the other for $60,000. He said he’s had trouble closing deals because of the uncertainty about the trailer park’s future, and now he’s facing a situation where he may lose his entire investment.
Giannola said no official position has been taken yet. The housing board has agreed to hear Becker’s arguments at its meeting in the first week of April. An invitation was also sent to Brennan’s daughter and son-in-law.
Giannola also said it is important to remember that the land under all of the trailers at Woody Creek is currently owned by the housing authority, not Becker, Peters, Brennan or any other lot owner. Potential buyers of trailers who are hoping to become land owners will eventually have to buy the land from the county.
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