City Council steers clear of Hunter Creek land swap ‘mess’ | AspenTimes.com
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City Council steers clear of Hunter Creek land swap ‘mess’

The Aspen City Council on Monday decided to keep far away from a property dispute between the Hunter Creek Condominiums and a couple building a home on land they received in trade from the condo association.”It’s a mess,” City Attorney John Worcester said in an interview Monday, an assessment he later repeated to the City Council.The council rejected an appeal by Hunter Creek Condo resident Bob Nix to overturn an administrative decision by chief planner Chris Bendon. Nix had asked Bendon for a “code interpretation” regarding a land-use question that Nix believes was improper; Bendon declined to render the requested “interpretation,” saying the request itself was not proper. The council concluded Bendon had acted appropriately.The council also refused to hold a hearing on the substance of Nix’s contention that Scott Hicks and Maureen Kinney’s home, which is being built up on land that once belonged to Hunter Creek, is illegal and should be halted.Hicks and Kinney have been trying for several years to build a house on land they purchase at the corner of Williams Way and Spruce Street, on the north side of Aspen near Hunter Creek.Unable to build on part of the property because it was encumbered by a park easement a previous owner sold to the city, Hicks arranged to trade that parcel of land for a piece of land of a similar size Hunter Creek owned. The land he received abutted his own building site, and enabled him to move ahead with his project.But Nix, who has lived in Hunter Creek for three years, discovered a number of problems with the trade. Among them was the fact that the land Hunter Creek received carries a Pitkin County employee housing deed restriction; since many Hunter Creek owners are not county residents, they cannot be even partial owners of deed-restricted property.Plus, Hicks never formally had the deed to the former Hunter Creek parcel transferred to his name. And the Hunter Creek Commons Corp. board never put the land swap to a vote of the condo owners, as the condo association’s bylaws require.The trade, which the Hunter Creek Commons Corp. board approved and the city of Aspen accepted as legal, recently was “repudiated” by Hunter Creek and formally questioned by Pitkin County. Nix told the council that the situation has resulted in “a cloud” on the titles of all Hunter Creek condos.At Monday’s council meeting, Worcester advised the city to stay as distant from the case as possible, and to not hold a hearing on Nix’s assertions.”Mr. Nix has raised a whole bunch of issues that tangentially affect the city,” Worcester told council members, warning them that the matter is likely to end up in court and that “the city is probably going to get brought before the court” in the process.In fact, Worcester admitted, “I’m certain the city will be dragged into that lawsuit.”Nix said after the meeting that he is not sure what he will do next.Hicks and Kinney, who were also at the meeting, declined to comment on the council’s decision or the matter in general.Local attorney Lenny Oates, who represents the Hunter Creek Commons Corp. and advised it to “repudiate” the trade with Hicks, remarked, “We’re going to work to move this thing in a direction where the title imperfections are resolved,” and then take the entire matter before the Hunter Creek owners for a decision about what to do next.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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