Copy shop owner sues Obermeyer developers | AspenTimes.com
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Copy shop owner sues Obermeyer developers

Naomi Havlen

The owner of an Aspen copy shop has filed a lawsuit against Obermeyer Development Co. and a number of other defendants, claiming she was shortchanged by developers and her landlord when her business relocated earlier this year.The suit is a continuation of a dispute that began last summer between two long-established local business owners. A defendant insists the lawsuit is a case of a tenant concocting a scheme to get out of paying rent.Mona Long of Main Street Quick Print and Copy Center Inc. moved her business as part of the Obermeyer Place project, which is transforming a formerly funky corner of town where businesses used to dwell in rundown buildings. Obermeyer arranged for a vast majority of the businesses there to be relocated while a new mixed-use commercial and residential complex is built.The lawsuit is actually a rewrite of a suit Long filed against Obermeyer in early July, but this version adds new complaints and new defendants – including her former landlord and the owners of the building where her shop is currently located.The suit is based on allegations that the shop was moved into an uninhabitable space that has a noxious gas smell and potentially toxic mold on the walls.It also claims the shop had a verbal lease with its previous landlord, Bill Murphy, that should have been honored by Obermeyer after the move. Instead, the company now seeks to evict the shop from its location, claiming that Long never signed a lease nor paid rent.Finally, the suit charges the defendants with defamation, slander and libel as well as “extreme and outrageous conduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Long claims that during a business meeting in the Wienerstube restaurant, Obermeyer Development owner Klaus Obermeyer shouted loudly at her, saying “You can go to hell! We’ll wash our hands with you!”Long is asking for unspecified damages for the claims and for a jury trial. Her spokesman, Lars Bart, said Long is out of the country on a business trip. But he gave The Aspen Times a news release with the lawsuit that quotes Long as saying, “We are strongly fighting back, it’s a matter of preserving the business, which I worked too many years to build up to allow it to be damaged by these defendants.”Obermeyer Redevelopment Co. manager Tim Belinski said his side is still attempting to solve the problem. He expressed disappointed that it’s come to a lawsuit.”We’ll continue to look for a solution, but we take this very seriously and we continue to defend our actions,” he said. “We were handling the situation with fairness and integrity, and we had hoped that their move would be easier on everybody involved.”Belinski said that there were attempts at mediation early on in this matter between the two parties, even though Long filed the first lawsuit in July. He said Main Street Quick Print left the mediation process, while Long’s suit claims that Obermeyer refused to negotiate.Allegations of a behavior patternDave Danforth, co-owner of the 517 E. Hopkins building and owner of the Aspen Daily News, says he questions Bart’s background and claims that he’s found court documents in Massachusetts that may show Bart has attempted to bilk landlords out of money in the past.Danforth, a defendant in the case, purports that Bart and Mona Long owned a printing company in Cambridge that “concocted a series of excuses not to pay their rent,” he said, including telling their landlord that their electricity was uneven, and that it damaged their printing equipment. Danforth said his research indicates Bart and Long refused to pay their rent and when the landlord attempted to evict them, they claimed the eviction was retaliation for their whistle blowing on the landlord.Bart counters that Long was not directly involved in the case, rather she was an arm’s-length investor in his company. Further, the landlord lost that suit and was required by the court to fix the electricity and make restitution.In this case, Danforth claims that Bart is attempting to pull off the same scheme, portraying Obermeyer as a “big, bad developer.””I think this is a public relations campaign to portray them as downtrodden and bullied,” Danforth said. “This case will end up looking like a shakedown suit against one of Aspen’s most respected citizens. The truth is, they just don’t want to pay their rent.”Danforth also alleges that city and state public health agencies tested the mold levels in the building and reported that they were “not high enough to cause concern.” Danforth said he thinks the problems with the tenant begins with Bart’s involvement in the case. “Mona Long is a longtime Aspenite, and she ought to be able to have a business that prospers,” he said. “Klaus Obermeyer is one of Aspen’s most respected senior citizens. For those two to be involved in this kind of dispute is unfortunate. I have to think that what caused it to get toxic is the arrival of Lars Bart.”Bart was incredulous about the allegations when reached on Tuesday, and said that he is not the one on trial in this case.”I’ve organized tenants in the past and been very successful, and I’ve never lost a case,” he said. “Quite honestly, for them to bring up irrelevant issues says that they don’t have a case, so they have to attack the people involved. Making it a people issue is an easy way for them to get around their responsibilities.”According to Obermeyer’s attorney, Matt Ferguson, both parties will appear in front of Judge Thomas Ossola on Jan. 18 for the possession portion of the eviction case.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com