Is Aspen in the dog house because of Henn house? | AspenTimes.com

Is Aspen in the dog house because of Henn house?

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN The Aspen city government might be dragged into the controversy over The Residences at the Little Nell luxury condominium project.The law firm of Garfield & Hecht notified the city attorneys office Monday that the city might be named as a defendant in a lawsuit, according to assistant city attorney Jim True.They are questioning whether we should have issued the [conditional certificate of occupancy], he said. Our position is it was appropriately issued.Garfield & Hecht attorney Matt Ferguson represents Preston and Betty Henn, who own a second home uphill from The Residences at the Little Nell, also known as RLN. The Henns claim the ground around their house became unstable after work started on the massive condominium project. Doors and windows dont shut. An elevator has been declared unsafe. Gas and water lines must be constantly monitored to make sure they dont break. And structural damage allegedly occurred because of work on the condo project. The city red tagged the Henn house in 2005, declaring it uninhabitable, according to the lawsuit.The owners of two other houses adjacent to the Henn house have filed lawsuits with similar claims.The Henns are seeking unspecified damages for the damage and loss of use of the home, and they are trying to force the development firm to live up to alleged contractual obligations. Ferguson couldnt be reached for comment Tuesday because he was in an unrelated court hearing. It is uncertain how issuance of the conditional certificate of occupancy fits in his case. It appears that the Henns will lose leverage if the luxury condo project is allowed to open without addressing some of their complaints.The Residences at the Little Nell is a fractional ownership project at the base of Aspen Mountain that is setting a new standard for luxury in Aspen and Snowmass Village. Its location is unbeatable right on the slope of Little Nell. It will be managed by the Aspen Skiing Co.s highly regarded staff at The Little Nell hotel. The first owners will occupy their units in February.Construction delays ruined the developers chance to open the condos in June 2008 as originally contemplated, but a flurry of activity in the fall got the project back on track. Inspectors with the city building department checked the project over the long Thanksgiving weekend and issued a conditional certificate for the condo units. No occupancy has been approved yet for other parts of the building, like a restaurant, retail space, employee housing units or high-end hotel units.The issuance of any certificate of occupancy came as a surprise to some observers in the legal community because the project appeared to be far from complete. At the time the permit was issued, there was still a great deal of activity around the main entrance of the project, for example.The citys chief building official, Stephen Kanipe, said last month that RLN didnt receive any favoritism. He said the department regularly works with property owners and builders who are in a time crunch to get buildings completed by the start of ski season. Builders can pay extra fees to secure inspections on weekends and holidays, according to the departments website.Kanipe said the process applied to RLN is the same process that has been in place for about 20 years. Other high-profile projects such as The Little Nell hotel, the Hyatt Grand Aspen and Ritz-Carlton Hotel (now the St. Regis) also received weekend and holiday inspections so they could open for ski season, he said.Along with putting the city on notice that it could be named in a lawsuit, Ferguson requested all city staff records regarding the certificate of occupancy for RLN. The request under the Colorado Open Records Act seeks all documents and communications, including e-mails, between city staff and council members and representatives of the development firm.True said he didnt know how much it would cost in money and time to comply with the request. It can be hefty, depending on what they want, he said. The cost of copying documents and retrieving other information will be passed on to the law firm.scondon@aspentimes.com


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