Aspen employee unit or entertainment center? |

Aspen employee unit or entertainment center?

ASPEN ” The Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority is suing a local couple, demanding proof that they house employees on their property.

The authority filed a lawsuit last week against Larry and Mara Lawrence after repeated attempts to seek proof that they house an employee in their dwelling at 985 King St. in Aspen.

Four letters have been sent to the Lawrences’ La Jolla, Calif., home since March, informing them that their property has deed restrictions on it and asking them to show proof someone is living in their employee dwelling unit (EDU).

The letters also indicated the Lawrences were in violation of government regulations because they failed to have their tenants qualified by the housing authority and they didn’t provide the agency with a copy of the lease.

A notice of violation was sent on Sept. 11, which offered the Lawrences an opportunity to clear up the matter by having the tenants complete a rental approval packet and return it by Sept. 26, along with the lease agreement.

The Lawrences didn’t respond to any of the requests or demand for compliance.

They also didn’t return phone messages from The Aspen Times seeking comment.

The latest letter, dated Nov. 16, was written by Tom Fenton Smith, attorney for the housing authority (APCHA). The notice says that if the Lawrences don’t bring the employee unit into compliance with 10 days, legal action would be taken.

“By letters dated March 9, 2007, and July 13, 2007, you were notified of noncompliance by failing to have a tenant qualified for occupancy,” Smith wrote. “You ignored these letters. On Sept. 11, 2007, APCHA issued to you a notice of violation for failing to provide the required information, and notified you of your right to request a hearing. You did not request a hearing.

“APCHA has also has received information indicating that you have converted the EDU into a home entertainment center.”

The deed restriction was in place when the Lawrences bought the property in 1996 for $1.8 million.

When the Aspen City Council approved the subdivision in 1994, three of the allowable six homes would be used and occupied solely by low-, moderate- and middle-income individuals.

The declaration of the covenants provides that the lower unit of the Lawrences’ duplex be an employee unit. It was granted by Bass/Cahn Properties as a condition by the city of Aspen to redevelop the property, according to the lawsuit.

The authority is asking the court to declare a judgment against the Lawrences for breach of contract and covenants, as well as requiring them to rent the unit.

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