Aspen homeowners on downhill slide? | AspenTimes.com

Aspen homeowners on downhill slide?

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN The owners of a luxury home at the base of Aspen Mountain claim the house is uninhabitable because of work at an adjacent condominium project, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court.The complaint by Preston and Betty Henn of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., claims that the soil under their second home was affected by efforts to stabilize lower Aspen Mountain to allow construction of the Residences at the Little Nell. The Henn house suffered serious damage, including but not limited to, structural damage, visual damage, and damage to at least the door and window frames, curtain, etc., the suit said.R.J. Gallagher, a spokesman for the Residences developer, said they hadnt been served yet with the lawsuit so they couldnt comment.This is the third lawsuit against the Residences that claims construction activity at the luxury condo project resulted in disastrous results for neighbors. Joel Tauber claimed in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that his house uphill from the condo project was rapidly subsiding because of allegedly hazardous and negligent construction activities at the Residences.Westpac Aspen Investments LLC claimed its luxury home next to the Henn house has suffered structural damage due to work on the luxury condo project. The Henns are asking a judge to allow them to intervene in that lawsuit because they had many of the same agreements with partners in the Residences at the Little Nell project.The Henns filed their complaint against The Residences at Little Nell Development LLC; Aspen Land Fund, a managing partner in the development firm; Swinerton Builders, the general contractor on the project; and KL&A Inc. and Coggins and Sons Inc., subcontractors on the project. The Henns complaint was filed by Aspen attorney Matt Ferguson.The Henns complaint said they agreed to a land exchange in 2004 to assist the construction of the Residences at The Little Nell. They gave the developer their old house at the base of Aspen Mountain in return for another house in that neighborhood. As part of the exchange, the developer agreed to monitor conditions and take corrective action if construction created problems for the Henns, the suit said.A 70- to 80-foot hole was excavated at the base of Aspen Mountain in June 2005 for the condo project. Swinerton hired Coggins to construct a retaining wall with tiebacks so that the slope was stable enough to allow construction. The work didnt stabilize soils under the Henn and Westpac residences, the lawsuit said.On or about Oct. 14, 2005, the city of Aspen issued a red tag prohibiting occupancy of the Henn residence and Westpac residence; the citys red tags were based upon movements of the soils behind the retaining wall and tieback system the lawsuit said.The Henns cannot stay in their house or rent it out. They asked a judge to award them monetary damages in an amount to be determined based on 14 claims for relief.The claims made in the Henn, Tauber and Westpac lawsuits are only allegations at this point. There have been no judgments finding fault by the developer of the Residences at The Little Nell.Nevertheless, the three lawsuits represent mounting legal headaches for the developer. The 26 luxury condos at the Residences at the Little Nell were supposed to be open by now. A management and operating agreement has been signed with the Aspen Skiing Co.s five-star, five-diamond Little Nell Hotel.The work required to stabilize the slope delayed construction and, thus, closings on the 26 fractional ownership units. The sales are supposed to be completed early next year. Six-week fractional ownership interests in the three-bedroom units sold for $1 million to start and soared to $1.9 million. Six-week interests in four-bedroom units climbed from $1.25 million to $3 million. The project is roughly 97 percent sold out. However, four buyers with contracts filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming that their contracts should be declared void because of the delay in opening. They want their earnest money back.Gallagher said the lawsuit must be kept in perspective because it represents a small percentage of buyers. There are about 166 buyers of 200 fractional interests in the project, he said. There is no problem between the developer and the vast majority of the buyers.There has been no ruling in that lawsuit.scondon@aspentimes.com


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