Eviction likely for Lada Vrany
August 1, 2006
Pitkin County government took the first steps last week to evict 87-year-old Lada Vrany from the ranch where he has lived since 1958.The county served Vrany’s attorney with a “notice to quit,” essentially a demand to get off the property, on July 27 after negotiations stalled.”We’re trying to respect his age and his service. We’re not trying to be harsh,” said Mick Ireland, chairman of the Pitkin County commissioners.Earlier last month, the county terminated Vrany’s tenancy at the ranch but offered him a new lease that allowed him to stay on the property free of charge. The county also proposed to pay Vrany a “monthly property management fee” in an amount to be negotiated. All Vrany had to do to earn the fee was keep the premises in good repair and report any suspicious activities, according to a copy of the proposal that Vrany supplied to The Aspen Times.Vrany said the contract was unacceptable because it didn’t set the amount of the fee. He is concerned the county wouldn’t meet his demands if he signed the lease before negotiating the fee.”I will not sign this contract no matter what they do,” Vrany said.Vrany, whose health is deteriorating, said he understands that eviction is a possibility. “That’s what will happen probably if I don’t sign their stupid contract,” he said.Sour relationship
Vrany rented the ranch from Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke for 30 years until their family estate sold it to the county government in 1988. The ranch is along Owl Creek Road, close to the Pitkin County Airport. The county used airport funds, including a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, to acquire the property.Relations soured between the county and Vrany, and he eventually stopped paying rent.Vrany made his living off of the county land by renting pastures to graze cows and horses, growing hay, leasing storage space in various ramshackle buildings on the property and leasing trailers as affordable housing.Vrany’s tenants were served with eviction notices May 2. The county took action because the residences were illegal and because county officials found unsanitary conditions due to failing septic systems at some of the residences and a lack of systems at others.
The proposed lease prohibits Vrany from subletting residences at the ranch, renting storage space or leasing pastures.Vrany said he feels he is owed a monthly payment equal to what he was capable of making from his various endeavors. He is asking the county to pay him $6,000 per month, but he said he is willing to accept $5,000 monthly.Vrany said he would prefer to collect the monthly fee and move off the property, possibly to Nevada. The county’s agreement ties payment of the fee to managing the property.County thinking smallerIreland said the county will entertain reasonable proposals for a monthly fee. “I guess in Aspen you’re allowed to dream big, but we’re not going to pay him five to six thousand,” Ireland said. He said he was unaware that Vrany ever had an ownership interest in the ranch or any right to sublet space for any purpose.Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Chris Seldin wouldn’t disclose what fee the county is offering because the issue is potentially headed to litigation.
“As you will note, the Agreement provides for a reasonable payment to you for residing on the Property; the county is prepared to negotiate with you as to what that reasonable payment should be,” said a letter to Vrany from Pitkin County. That July 20 letter gave Vrany until July 27 to sign the new lease. It warned that if he didn’t sign the agreement, “the county will be forced to commence legal proceedings to remove you from the property.”If there is no agreement and Vrany refuses to leave, the county must file an “unlawful detainer” against him in court. A judge would then rule if Vrany must leave.Seldin said the county has tried to be as “humane as possible” in the case by striking a balance between his longtime tenancy at the airport ranch and the need to protect the public’s interests. He hopes a dialogue will continue and a settlement can be reached, but there’s “only so long we can wait,” he said.Ireland said he hopes the attorneys work out a deal that both sides can accept: “We’ve offered him something that’s more than fair,” he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.