Aspen, Pitkin County, housing authority move to dismiss Centennial lawsuit
The Aspen Times
Three government entities named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Centennial homeowners association have now filed a joint motion in district court to dismiss the case.
The defendants — the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority, the city of Aspen and the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners — are citing that there’s no legal duty requiring them to fund repairs to the homeowners’ units.
The lawsuit filed by the HOA late last year commands as much as $10 million in repairs, or roughly $40,000 per unit. The suit claims the defendants knowingly allowed structural damages and failed to remediate “dangerous levels of potentially toxic mold.”
The HOA’s suit wants the defendants to either pay for the repairs or to remove the deed restrictions so that owners can eventually sell their units at higher prices, according to the motion.
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The government agencies note that “no one is denying that these property owners face tough circumstances,” but the motion goes on to say that “without any contractual or statutory mandate, it becomes clear that the HOA’s attempt to force the government to pay for its repairs actually emanates from tort claims related to the alleged construction defects.”
The motion cites the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, which shields public entities from liability “in all claims for injury which lie in tort or could lie in tort.” The “tort” is referring to other claims made by the homeowners related to the alleged construction defects, according to the motion.
Attorney David Bovino, representing the Centennial homeowners association, issued a statement Wednesday that said the homeowners have worked in good faith “for several years in a constructive and non-adversarial manner with our elected officials to try to solve this problem.”
“The government admits it has the power to fix the moldy, unsafe and hazardous conditions at Centennial. They also acknowledge that neither the individual homeowners nor the HOA have the resources to remediate the defects,” Bovino said. “Ironically, should the city prevail against the homeowners in this litigation, the obvious result is to guarantee unsafe housing for it’s own employees in perpetuity. How could this possibly be good for Aspen?”
The HOA also makes a claim for inverse condemnation, arguing that the deed restrictions constitute a “wrongful taking of its owners’ property rights.” But the defendants allege that such a claim must be based on the taking or damaging of a property interest for a public purpose, the motions states.
“The unit owners cannot base a ‘takings’ claim on a property interest (i.e., the right to sell free of restrictions) that they never had — nothing has been ‘taken’ from them,” the motion states.
Bovino refers to city and county development projects as a $50 million “Taj Mahal Municipal Center” and suggests the government agencies work with the Centennial homeowners before asking taxpayers to fund those development projects.
“After all, it’s the hard work and taxes of the Centennial homeowners and others that will pay for the politician’s Taj Mahal,” Bovino said. “We are resolute that it is in the community’s best interests to solve this problem.”
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.