Grand Aspen developers ask court to dismiss suit | AspenTimes.com

Grand Aspen developers ask court to dismiss suit

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Developers of the planned Hyatt Grand Aspen have asked a district court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the hotel project’s neighbors, as they have failed to pursue their claims in a timely fashion.

A motion filed Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court charges the Galena Place Townhome Condominium Association with engaging in delay tactics that are resulting in economic harm to the hotel’s developers, as well as the city of Aspen.

The four condo owners filed the lawsuit in February, but have failed to follow it up with a motion seeking formal court action to halt work on the time-share hotel. Since work on the hotel has continued in the interim, the Galena Place homeowners have lost their opportunity to suspend the project pending a judgment on their claims, rendering their lawsuit moot, the developers contend.

Essentially, the motion claims the neighbors missed their chance and that the suit should be dismissed.

“We should have been in court already,” said attorney Matthew Ferguson, representing Four Peaks Development and Grand Aspen Lodging LLC. “They didn’t go to court, so we’re forced to go to court.”

Attorney Peter Thomas Jr., representing the neighbors, said he had not yet seen the motion yesterday afternoon and therefore could not comment on it.

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The Galena Place homeowners filed a lawsuit against both the hotel’s developers and the city of Aspen, objecting to the height of the new hotel slated to replace the former Grand Aspen Hotel, which was razed last year.

The suit has hampered the developers’ ability to secure financing for the project, even though the neighbors have made no move to seek a court injunction halting construction while their claims are considered, according to the motion filed yesterday.

“Lenders do not readily fund equity or extend debt financing into a project subject to litigation with threatened injunctions and appeals of approvals regardless of their lack of merit,” the motion states.

The neighbors’ tactics have resulted in a de facto injunction and have allowed them to avoid posting a bond to protect the developers from damages of “well in excess of $500,000 a month in fixed costs and yet-to-be determined injuries to profitability,” according to the motion.

Galena Place “knows full well that its improper and abusive actions are causing the project to be delayed, with a construction contract that will lapse, development and construction time lines that will collapse, bids that will expire, and enormous carrying costs that have and will continue to accrue – all this while Plaintiff cogitates, delays, and waffles from its duty to bring on a motion and hearing,” the motion states.

The developers will ask Judge Peter T. Craven to act as quickly as possible on their motion, according to Ferguson.

The lawsuit challenges the city’s regulation of building heights and the City Council’s approval of a 45-foot-high hotel on the Dean Street site where the old Grand Aspen once topped out at 32 feet.

The council originally approved the height of the new building when Savanah Limited Partnership was seeking approval for a new, 150-room hotel on the property. Savanah later sold its land holdings to Four Peaks, which sought an amended approval for a 51-suite time-share hotel that retained the height approved with Savanah’s hotel plan.

The lawsuit notes Savanah claimed the height variance was necessary to build a viable, moderately priced hotel. The neighbors claim the city failed to revisit the original justifications for allowing a building of that height when Four Peaks came forward with a different kind of project.

At 45 feet, the new hotel would be roughly the same height as The Little Nell and North of Nell buildings, and shorter than the St. Regis Aspen, noted an architect for the Grand Aspen time-share project during its review by the city.

In a deposition of one of the plaintiffs yesterday, Furguson said the individual couldn’t “even articulate what their problem was” with the planned hotel.

“These are four people, three of whom don’t even live here full time, stopping this project,” he said.