Centennial lawsuit on hold
January 14, 2016
A lawsuit against multiple government entities over allegedly unhealthy conditions at the Centennial apartments complex has been stagnant ever since it was filed three weeks ago.
The reason: none of the defendants — the city of Aspen, the Pitkin County commissioners and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority — have yet to be served.
The first attempt to serve the suit was made last week, said lawyer Tom Smith, who represents the housing authority.
But a discussion between Centennial attorney Peter Thomas and county lawyer John Ely stalled the service, Smith said.
"They had a brief conversation that instead of requiring us to accept service and trigger all of the deadlines, why don't we sit down first, and the HOA has formally agreed to that," Smith said.
No negotiations have taken place yet, he said.
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"I'm sure there will be some discussions with the representatives of the HOA to see if there's some way to resolve this without ramping up a time-consuming and expensive lawsuit," Smith said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Pitkin County District Court, claims there is as much as $10 million in necessary fixes to the complex due to "dangerous levels of potentially toxic mold" and other structural damages.
The suit accuses the local government of violating local and state housing laws by passing on the cost of the repairs to the unit owners.
Centennial, which is located at the foot of Smuggler Mountain, was built 30 years ago as part of a public-private venture. It has 148 affordable-housing units, including 92 that are deed-restricted for ownership and 56 rentals. The Housing Authority governs the seven-building complex.
The suit argues that the city's decision to not help pay for the repairs has put the unit owners in a dire financial position. That's because the housing authority's 10 percent limit on capital improvements to deed-restricted homes doesn't apply to such major structural repairs as the current dilemma, creating a disincentive for the owners to pay for it.
Thomas, Centennial's co-counsel on the suit, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Lawyer David Bovino, who also represents Centennial, declined to discuss what has stalled the suit being served.
"The lawsuit has not been served with the city and county and will likely be served when they're prepared to accept service," Bovino said.
Ely, the county attorney, also wouldn't go into details.
"In any litigation that we're involved in, we always waive service," said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely. "We always are open to discussion, but I can't give you anything in particular."
City Attorney Jim True also declined comment.