Employee-housing owner defends buying, selling other homes
Housing officials were unsure Wednesday whether to order a longtime local resident to sell his employee housing because he owns other residential property in Aspen.A hearing on the alleged violation was continued to June 15 while Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority staffers and their attorney mull over the deed restrictions that apply to a Lacet Lane home owned by retired attorney Doug Allen.Allen also owns a condo at Winfield Arms in Aspen and, he told the housing board yesterday, he has bought and sold various residential properties in the area since he purchased the deed-restricted lot on Lacet Lane in 1996 and built a house there.Last night, housing staffers recommended the board order Allen to sell the Lacet Lane home, as he has failed to sell the Winfield Arms unit. The housing office has ordered Allen to sell the Winfield Arms property in correspondence dating back to 1999, and Allen said he has tried. “Right now, it’s not listed at all,” said Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager.”Every piece of real estate that I own, except my home, is for sale at any time,” Allen said.Allen and his attorney, Michael Hoffman, pointed to language in the deed restrictions that govern his Lacet Lane property that allow the homeowner to construct and sell other residential property or buy and sell other residential property.Most deed restrictions – which spell out the rules that apply to local worker housing – don’t make such an allowance. Buyers of affordable worker units aren’t allowed to own other residential property in the Roaring Fork drainage.”It clearly made its way into this particular deed restriction,” said attorney Dave Myler, a former housing board member who testified at Wednesday’s hearing. In the 1990s, housing officials were discussing looser rules to accommodate individuals in the real estate business, he said.Allen said he has made a living in Aspen as both an attorney and a buyer and seller of real estate. He is now retired from the practice of law.Allen said he has never made any secret of his ownership of other residential property and that it was made clear in documents he provided to the housing office when he bought the Lacet Lane lot.”It’s very clear in these deed restrictions that it’s carved out. It fit me four-square that I could do this,” he said. “Now I’m being hammered for it. It’s just not right.”I’m entitled to retire, after living here 30 years, and now the housing office is trying to take away my home,” he said.The Winfield property is a 300-square-foot unit plus 12 parking spaces. The parking has made it an impossible sell, Allen said. He can’t own the spaces unless he owns a unit there, so both elements must be sold together.Allen shouldn’t be required to sell the property at a huge discount just to unload it, Hoffman argued.”I would love to sell all of this. No one’s buying,” Allen said.Muddying the debate is the existence of two sets of deed restrictions that apply to his home. One explicitly contains the language that Allen said permits his real estate business. The housing board wrestled with whether one set of restrictions trumped the other or whether both deed restrictions allow the sale and resale of other property.Board member Marcia Goshorn pondered what “resale” means and suggested it doesn’t mean sitting on an investment forever. “The value of a property is only what someone is willing to pay for it,” she said, hinting that the Winfield Arms condo isn’t priced accordingly.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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