Aspen’s housing authority looks to take possession of controversial Burlingame house later this month
After failed negotiations that offered financial incentives to embattled Burlingame Ranch resident Lee Mulcahy to leave his home peacefully, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution for the agency to purchase the property.
According to the real estate contract, APCHA would take possession of the title to the property located at 53 Forge Road on Feb. 21.
Mulcahy will not receive any financial settlement other than a maximum resale price of $995,000 on the home, according to the deed restriction on the property.
An inspection of the home by a court-appointed receiver, Greenwood Village-based Cordes & Co., is scheduled for Feb. 20.
Mulcahy, who has levied veiled threats of violence if he and his mother, Sandy, are forced to leave, has said he won’t let anyone in the house.
APCHA attorney Tom Smith said the agency can waive the inspection if necessary. He also noted that officials have been in the house previously and some photos have been taken.
Cordes & Co. has entered into a listing contract with APCHA to purchase the property. Acting on behalf of Mulcahy, Cordes & Co. is the seller and will be communicating with him on next steps.
According to the purchase contract, if Mulcahy fails to allow APCHA possession of the home he built with his family, he will be subject to eviction and will be required to pay $500 a day from Feb. 21 until he leaves.
If he refuses to leave, APCHA will have to get a court order to enforce the receiver to take possession.
“Whether we can get in there on that date depends on what happens next,” Smith told the board during Monday’s special meeting. “When the rubber meets the road hopefully he complies.”
It will be up to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to evict the Mulcahys.
Mulcahy did not respond to questions submitted to him via email.
In 2015, Mulcahy was found out of compliance of APCHA’s rules for not being able to prove he works the required 1,500 hours in Pitkin County.
He has been embroiled in litigation with APCHA ever since, and has lost his case at the district court level and the Colorado Court of Appeals. The Colorado and U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the case, which upheld previous decisions that Mulcahy violated the deed restriction on the property.
Mulcahy has filed a motion to vacate the original judgment, which was denied by the district court. That denial is now on appeal to the state’s high court.
Three courts also have denied Mulcahy’s motions to stay the enforcement of the original judgment.
“APCHA has determined that it is necessary and appropriate to exercise its right to purchase the property in order to bring the pending litigation with Mulcahy to its conclusion as soon as possible and to take the necessary steps to dispose of the property in accordance with the deed restriction and in the best interests of the housing program,” according to the resolution that the board approved Monday.
APCHA has spent roughly $145,000 in legal fees on the Mulcahy case and has filed liens on the property to recoup around $80,000.
“I think it’s fair to say that the community’s patience has worn thin” of what has become a very public battle between the housing authority and Mulcahy, said APCHA board alternate member Rachel Richards, who also is an Aspen city councilwoman.
She recognized that the battle may not be over yet.
“It could still be a long and winding road,” Richards said.
APCHA board member and Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman said he hopes to see a peaceful resolution.
“I hope this is the end of a long running saga,” he said.
Newman and other electeds were supportive of officials representing the APCHA board and county government having backchannel conversations in recent months with Mulcahy to reach a settlement with him.
They discussed giving him more money for the property if he would peacefully exit when he is forced to sell.
The negotiations, which centered on giving Mulcahy as much as $300,000 more on the maximum sales price, or waiving the legal fees, as well as allowing him to recoup the appreciation on the property for the period of time he was out of compliance — valued at $62,000 — were done without consulting APCHA’s deputy and executive directors, as well as Smith.
Once those details were made public two weeks ago, members of the public criticized the APCHA board for negotiating with a person who has broken the program’s rules and the precedent it would set for future compliance cases.
APCHA board member and Aspen City Councilman Skippy Mesirow said those individuals who approached Mulcahy with settlement options were doing so out of compassion and kindness.
“Instead of criticizing them we should be thanking them for at least trying,” he said.
APCHA board member John Ward, who was one of those who was negotiating with Mulcahy, agreed.
“There was no malicious intent,” he said. “The goal was to get to a resolution.”
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said there have been meetings among law enforcement officials about possible responses to an eviction.
Police officers have been visible in the city-developed affordable housing neighborhood, which is inhabited by mostly families with young children.
“We continue to get familiar with the neighborhood and we know that with the comments that Lee has made, it concerns the neighbors,” Consuegra said, adding officers have been in communication with Mulcahy about comments he’s made publicly in front of elected bodies. “It’s hard to plan because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“Hopefully everything get resolved peacefully.”
Aspen City Council approved a contract with Daniel Joseph (DJ) Watkins during Tuesday’s regular meeting to move forward with his intentions to operate his proposed “Aspen Collective,” which is currently occupied by Mia Valley’s Valley Fine Art.