Doc fights to keep housing unit | AspenTimes.com

Doc fights to keep housing unit

Joel Stonington
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” An Aspen doctor will appeal a recent court order to move out and sell her Ritz-Carlton Club affordable housing unit, her attorney said Tuesday.

The appeal comes after last week’s decision by 9th Judicial District Judge Daniel Petre, who ruled in favor of plaintiff Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority. The ruling states that Dr. Amanda Tucker must sell her deed-restricted unit by Nov. 9.

The Housing Authority sued Tucker in March 2006 in Pitkin County District Court, claiming that she didn’t meet the criteria to own the cut-rate housing. All the while, Tucker has continued to live at the townhouse, which she bought for $179,000 at a foreclosure auction in 2005.

At the time Tucker bought the unit at Ritz-Carlton, at Aspen Highlands Village, she owned seven pieces of real estate in Hawaii with a reported value of $10 million, according to public records. The Housing Authority originally claimed that Tucker, an anesthesiologist, did not complete an application in order to qualify for ownership of the Category 3 housing unit, which puts a $91,000 cap on yearly earnings for owners with two dependents. Additionally, their net assets cannot exceed $150,000.

Tucker’s lawyer, John Case of Aspen, said he will appeal the ruling on the grounds that the affordable-housing unit is an invalid attempt to enact rent control, the same argument that failed to convince Petre to dismiss the case. Case said he will file the appeal Friday.

Housing Authority attorney Tom Smith said it’s unlikely Tucker will prevail at the appellate level.

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“We think the court was correct, and we will make the same arguments at the court of appeals,” he said. “We will continue to rack up attorney fees they will have to pay.”

Smith said he will be submit a request for the roughly $10,000 in legal fees that his office has already charged. He estimated that an appeal taking at least one year would cost a similar amount.

Case will request allowing Tucker to live in the unit while the appeal is pending, but Smith said he will battle to have her evicted. Smith argued that there is no legal entitlement to the right to live in the unit while the appeal is pending.

Case argues that deed restrictions on the property are an illegal form of rent control because of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling known as the “Telluride case.”

The Telluride ruling, issued in 2000, went in favor of a developer and against the town of Telluride. The high court ruled that local governments cannot set rents in privately owned projects.

Petre denied Case’s argument as grounds for dismissal because “many of the provisions in the agreement are not classic rent control provisions. Rather, they have to do with determining ‘qualified buyers’ and maximum sale/resale prices for the units. They deal with sale, not rental, of the units. These provisions are ordinary deed restrictions and can be upheld while eliminating any rent control provisions that may be invalid as a result of Telluride.”