City of Aspen prevails in building-access case |

City of Aspen prevails in building-access case

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Affordable-housing tenants and handicapped individuals will now have access to the front entrance of a downtown building, a judge ruled Friday in an order that also awarded the penthouse owners at the property $1.28 million.

Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols’ order follows an October bench trial in which the city of Aspen sued Michael Sedoy and Natalia Shvachko, the couple that owns a free-market condominium at 308 E. Hopkins Ave. The city also sued JW Ventures LLC, which developed the entire three-floor building in 2007.

The court found that JW Ventures and Sedoy and Shvachko violated city ordinance, the international building code and accessibility policy. It also found that the developer and couple’s interpretation of the condominium declaration allows for continued violation of the ordinance, code and policy. Both parties are prohibited from interfering with accessibility to the entrance in question.

Friday’s 90-page ruling is seen as a victory for the city of Aspen over both the couple and the developer. Nichols found that the developer was at fault in that it offered an agreement to the couple contrary to city-approved uses at the property. Specifically, the property’s condominium documents suggest that the penthouse owner has an exclusive right to the building’s east entrance, located on Hopkins Avenue.

Affordable-housing owners and handicapped individuals have been using an alleyway entrance to the building in close proximity to trash receptacles since Sedoy and Shvachko moved in. According to court records, the couple purchased two condominiums at the property in 2011 for around $6.2 million. They also spent about $2 million consolidating the condos into one residence spanning 5,530 square feet.

Based on the ruling, the city is entitled to recover its cost of litigation, which does not include attorneys fees, to be paid by the developer and the couple. Sedoy and Shvachko were awarded attorneys’ fees to be paid by the developer.

“From the city’s perspective, we are very pleased with the order, as it requires developers who get a development approval to abide by the terms of that (approval),” Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn said Friday.

Attorneys for the developer and Sedoy and Shvachko could not be reached for comment.

Sedoy and Shvachko prevailed on two of their claims in the case. In the first, Nichols found that JW Ventures failed to convey to them exclusive use of the entryway in question as well as its hallway, elevator and stairs. The Sedoys also won an injunction prohibiting the developer from changing a commercial unit at the property from a restaurant to a nightclub.