Hunter Creek owners respond to housing suit
November 23, 2007
ASPEN ” Scott Hicks and his wife cannot be forced to rent their guest cottage according to local government guidelines, because those guidelines are “a direct violation” of state laws prohibiting municipal rent control and cannot be applied to private property, according to documents filed recently in a complicated case before the Pitkin County District Court.
The documents are the response by Hicks and his wife, Maureen Kinney, to a suit filed in September by the Aspen/ Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA). Housing officials are asking a judge to decide whether Hicks can use a small, historic cottage as a guest house, or whether the cottage must be placed in the APCHA inventory of affordable units.
Hicks and Kinney recently built a 4,600-square-foot home at the intersection of Williams Way and Spruce Street, near the Hunter Creek Condominiums project on the north side of town.
The cottage in question is one of two that once were joined together and made up the home of Maxwell Aley and his family, who sold the property to Hicks and Kinney in the late 1990s. Housing officials maintain the land formerly owned by the Aleys carries with it a set of affordable housing deed restrictions.
But Hicks and Kinney, while acknowledging that one cottage and their house are governed by deed restrictions, claim they have the right to use the second cottage as a guest house without further governmental restrictions.
The two cottages currently sit on land next door to the Hicks-Kinney house, land which Hicks and Kinney received in a deal with the Hunter Creek Commons Corp. (HCC), which oversees affairs for the condo complex and its 300 owners.
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Under the terms of the deal, Hunter Creek’s 5,600-square-foot parcel, which adjoined the Hicks-Kinney land, was to be deeded to Hicks and Kinney in return for an equal-sized parcel just across Williams Way from the house, owned by Hicks and Kinney. Both pieces of land had been cut off from their larger parent parcels when Williams Way was created as the access to the nearby Williams Woods affordable housing complex.
The Hunter Creek Commons Corp. board, in 2002, agreed to what was termed a “lot line adjustment,” but which has been characterized as a swap of the two 5,600-square-foot pieces of land. The deal was created to give Hicks and Kinney enough land to relocate the two cottages and build their new home on the site formerly occupied by the cottages.
The complicated public disputes over the deal began about a year and a half ago, when Hunter Creek condo owner Bob Nix began a one-man campaign to overturn the deal, after he became convinced that the deal was not legal. Part of Nix’s complaint is that the deal was crafted by the HCC board without the permission of the membership of the homeowners association. He also maintains that Hicks, who paid roughly $26,800 as part of the deal, did not pay a high enough price to the condo association.
The APCHA lawsuit does not attempt to answer Nix’s claim that the entire deal should be scrapped and renegotiated, but is strictly concerned with the deed restriction issue as it applies to the two historic cottages.
In addition to arguing that the authority’s effort to impose guidelines on their property violates state law, Hicks and Kinney maintain that the housing office “has sat silent for the past five years” although housing officials were aware of the “lot line adjustment,” and has no right to declare the deal null and void at this point.
The case has not been set for trial.
John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.