Aspen housing office sues local planner |

Aspen housing office sues local planner

ASPEN ” Add a local planner to the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority’s list of alleged rule breakers.

The housing authority is suing Aspen resident Joseph E. Wells, accusing the architect and land-use planning consultant of renting out his affordable housing unit while residing at another local residence.

The suit, filed Jan. 25 in Pitkin County District Court, seeks a court order that Wells sell his deed-restricted unit, a condominium located at 130 Midland Park Place.

If the accusation holds up, Wells would be violating housing authority rules that prohibit the owner of an affordable housing unit from renting it out while living full-time somewhere else. The only way Wells would have been allowed to do so, the suit suggests, would have been if he had notified the authority and received its permission. He did not, the suit claims.

Wells, who is married to Aspen real estate agent Carrie Wells, did not return telephone messages left Tuesday at his business and residence. The housing authority’s attorney who filed the suit, Thomas Smith, also did not return a call seeking comment.

The suit claims that Wells, whom public records show bought the Midland unit for $77,000 in September 1978, was required to put his unit up for sale if he moved elsewhere. The housing authority also claims that Wells has “refused” to put the unit on the market, despite demands from the authority.

“Wells has changed his domicile and ceased to utilize the [Midland] unit as his permanent residence,” the suit says.

Pitkin County Assessor’s Office records show that in March 1996, Wells bought 3.14 acres of land, located in the Castle Creek Valley Ranch, for $100,000. A single-family home, which is listed in Wells’ name, is currently under construction there. It has a total heated area of 4,865 square feet, according to public records.

The assessor’s office says the property and improvements have an actual value of nearly $3.3 million and an assessed value of $261,430.

The suit against Wells marks the third one the housing authority has filed against the owner of an affordable housing unit since November.

Last month Larry and Mara Lawrence were sued by the housing authority, which is seeking proof that they house employees in their property’s employee dwelling unit. The suit claims suggests that the couple has instead been using the unit as a home entertainment center. The suit, which is pending, was discussed Tuesday at an Aspen City Council executive session.

And in November, the housing authority sued Debra and Louis Muzikar, a longtime Aspen couple whom it claims owns $600,000 worth of area property, in addition to their deed restricted Aspen housing.

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