Aspen’s Centennial homeowners reiterate request for public money for repairs
August 8, 2012
ASPEN – Members of the Centennial homeowners association on Tuesday restated their request to Pitkin County and city of Aspen elected officials for money to cover much-needed repairs stemming from what they believe was a faulty building design.
A Centennial HOA-funded study put the estimate on repairs at as much as $100,000 per unit. The city’s estimate is less than $10,000 per unit, perhaps less than $7,000. In a recent memorandum to county commissioners and the City Council, as well as at Tuesday’s joint work session, assistant city manager R. Barry Crook argued against covering the repair tab.
“We do not believe it is wise, nor necessary, for government funds to pay for the responsibilities of home ownership,” last week’s memo states. “The repair costs that are under way at Centennial are a necessary part of being a homeowner – and in fact have been somewhat neglected for a long time.”
Commissioners and council members were mostly silent on the issue. However, Commissioner Rachel Richards and Councilman Torre said they were open to the possibility of some type of aid, and Torre suggested revisiting the topic, from a policy standpoint, at the upcoming Housing Summit on Sept. 19 and 20.
Commissioner Jack Hatfield argued against bailing out the 92 homeowners, saying that to do so would be “a huge precedent-setting event for local governments” in that it would open the door for other HOAs to seek money for problems with their buildings.
“You guys must figure out a way to get this done,” he told the HOA representatives. “The responsibility is not the government’s. As far as the potential debt, … there are various ways to do that privately. I think the banks would love to loan some money, and it’s all negotiable in this environment. But the actual responsibility to come up with public funds is just something we can’t touch.”
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Centennial, near the base of Smuggler Mountain, was built in the early 1980s. Some engineers who have studied the problems have said that the affordable-housing development has varying degrees of damage caused by water intrusion related to inadequate “flashing,” metal strips that steer runoff away from buildings.
At the time it was built, Centennial was subject to Pitkin County development regulations. Today the area is within city limits.
Crook suggested that the argument the buildings were poorly designed lacks merit.
“There’s no indication that these buildings were built with anything other than the designs and standards of the day,” he said. “They did pass Pitkin County building code inspection and this is the way things were built and designed back when they were built.
“Does it meet today’s design standards? It does not,” Crook continued. “But it wasn’t a case of anyone cutting corners or shoddy construction that occurred back when these buildings were constructed.”
Though commissioners and council members didn’t decide the issue of the request for financial help, a few city Capital Assets Department staffers met with HOA board members after the meeting and expressed a willingness to assist Centennial residents in coming up with a true estimate for the cost of repairs.
Jason Closic, a member of the Centennial HOA board, said after the meeting that he was encouraged that some commissioners and council members expressed a willingness to discuss affordable-housing policy changes that could lead to government assistance for aged and damaged structures.
Another positive aspect of the meeting, he said, was the eagerness of some county and city officials to move forward with possible solutions instead of harping on HOA’s past mistakes. Among them: years of failing to collect the proper amount of dues – money that could have assisted the repairs.
“It was great to hear, ‘what’s done is done,'” Closic said. “All we want to do is figure out a plan to get this thing completed before it starts crumbling around us.”