“It felt like lightning struck”: Snowmass housing lottery winners express gratitude, surprise
Coffey Place winners grateful for new deed-restricted homes
Almost 70 Zoom attendees waited with bated breath as they watched the gold raffle drum spin during the Coffey Place deed-restricted housing lottery Wednesday.
After a thorough spin and a good shake of the barrel, it was up to fate or chance (or perhaps a bit of both) to determine who would win each of the 15 available homes in the new development located near Town Park in Snowmass Village. Housing Director Betsy Crum, Assistant Housing Director Terri Everest and Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon drew the names and announced the results from Town Hall.
The winners list of the hour-long process count plenty of familiar names and faces among the ranks; many applicants knew others who were vying for the same homes.
And several names have recently made headlines for their community involvement: Mardi Gras royalty Shaun and Lindsay Cagley scored a unit, as did former Town Council candidate Matthew Owens and his wife, Alisa. Jason “Tigger” Hartmann, well-known for donning a tiger costume on the slopes, likewise won one of the homes with his wife, Libby. Andrew Elliott, another winner, was once of The Aspen Times’ “Faces of the Pandemic” for his work in lift operations at Snowmass.
So what does it take to purchase a deed-restricted home in Snowmass Village?
Luck, hope and prayer was the winning combination for Dennis Burns.
Before the lottery, Burns and his two daughters (ages 11 and 14) joined hands and said a prayer in front of the unit they hoped to win: a three-bedroom home on Coffey Place Lane, he said.
So when his name was the first drawn from the gold raffle drum on Wednesday, “there was quite an eruption in the house,” Burns said.
The family went back to the home Thursday to say another prayer and express their gratitude, Burns said. They’ve been hoping for an opportunity like this for years. The new home will be nearly double the size of their current two-bedroom apartment in Mountain View.
“It’s been a long road,” Burns said. “This is going to be a life-altering change.”
Burns isn’t the only one counting his blessings this week.
“To me, it felt like lightning struck,” said Matthew Tate, who won a two-bedroom duplex. “It felt amazing.”
Tate has been manifesting a win for months, he said. When the town posted an announcement about the lottery in the fall, he cut it out of the newspaper and placed it on his bathroom vanity.
“I have been looking at it every night for the last three months,” he said. Now when he glances at that clipping, he’ll be reminded not of what might be but what will be as his family grows — and his fiancee is “over the moon.”
“I think just the universe was in line with us,” he said.
Tate’s name was the 16th drawn in the lottery, but he was able to secure his first-choice unit because other applicants drawn before him were only interested in other already-claimed units; there was already a five-name waiting list for some of the single-family homes by the time his name came around.
That ever-growing wait list for single-family homes was all that ensured Kevin and Briana Von Ohlen a unit in Coffey Place.
Lottery officiants announced the names of 21 different applicants — some of them multiple times — before even one of the Von Ohlens’ eight entries made its way onto the list. Kevin has worked in the village full time for 21-and-a-half years, more than any other applicant in the lottery.
“Oh man, we thought we lost it. We thought we didn’t get anything,” Briana said. “I was quite honestly in tears.”
The Von Ohlens were hoping for a three-bedroom home to accommodate their growing family but landed on a duplex, their 10th choice, because all of the single-family units were already claimed and had a substantial wait list.
“We’re happy that we won something,” Briana said. “Things happen for a reason and we’ll hope for the best.”
According to the lottery rules, they won’t be able to switch units if the sale of a larger home falls through, but they will be able to get priority on in-complex sales in the future. The family is still grateful for the new home, which will help reduce Kevin’s commute.
“It’s the luck of the draw, which is so hard … if you’re not super lucky,” Briana said.
But even the historically unlucky get the occasional chance for a win, as was the case for Vangel Yurukov and Magda Dziwoz.
“I never win anything,” Yurukov said.
Two years ago, he entered another deed-restricted housing lottery with just a handful of other contenders, among whom he had the most chances of any applicant; he lost to another applicant who had only one entry in that drawing.
“I didn’t think I was going to get anything this year,” Yurukov said. “I’m still trying to process everything that’s happened to me.”
Perhaps he had Joe Coffey on his side. Coffey was the town’s first-ever housing director and served the community for nearly 40 years before he died in January 2018; the new development was named in his honor.
“Joe was a good friend of mine back in the day,” Yurukov said.
The spirit of Joe Coffey was a through line in the lottery proceedings: the event began with a moment of silence for the longtime local who shaped the landscape of workforce housing in Snowmass Village. Everest worked with him for years, and a number of winners knew Coffey during his long tenure with the town.
“Joe’s in our hearts,” said Dennis Burns, that first winner in the lottery. “He always was trying to do what’s best for the residents of this village, and this project is proof of that.”
How lucky were the winners in Wednesday’s lottery? Pretty darn lucky, it turns out: odds were slim even for applicants with nearly two decades of full-time work in Snowmass Village on their resume.
The lottery uses a weighted and tiered system that gives applicants more entries for more years of full-time work in the area. The downsizing tier, which had top priority, had only one applicant looking to move to a smaller unit from their current deed-restricted housing. But the next-highest tier (applicants with more than three years in Snowmass Village on their resume) was also the largest: there were 37 applicants with a total of 174 entries.
Below, the winners of each unit (and the chance they had in the lottery.)
Two-Bedroom Duplex Townhomes ($495,000)
Lot 1A: Vangel Yurukov and Magda Dziwosz (Six entries/3.45% chance of winning)
Lot 1B: Matthew Tate (Six entries/3.45% chance of winning)
Lot 2A: Sean Fick and Sheryl Sabandal (Four entries/2.23% chance of winning)
Lot 2B: Kevin and Briana Von Ohlen (Eight entries/4.6% chance of winning)
Lot 3A: Maret Jessen and Lance Ammerman (Eight entries/4.6% chance of winning)
Lot 3B: Andrew Elliott and Katharine Johnson (Four entries/2.23% chance of winning)
Three-Bedroom Single-Family Homes ($650,000)
Lot 4: Darin and Laurie Anderson (Six entries/3.45% chance of winning)
Lot 5: Matthew and Alisa Owens (Eight entries/4.6% chance of winning)
Lot 6: Andrew and Bethany Spitz (Eight entries/4.6% chance of winning)
Three-Bedroom Single-Family Homes with Finished Basement ($835,000)
Lot 7: George White and Jacquelyn Carr (Two entries/1.14% chance of winning)
Lot 8: Andrew Huck and Javiera Valenzuela (Four entries/2.23% chance of winning)
Two-Bedroom Single-Family Home, ADA Accessible ($635,000)
Lot 9: Jane and Jeff Head (Only downsizing applicant; 100% chance of winning)
Single-Family Three-Bedroom Homes ($695,000)
Lot 10: Shaun and Lindsay Cagley (Six entries/3.45% chance of winning)
Lot 11: Jason “Tigger” and Libby Hartmann (Eight entries/4.6% chance of winning)
Lot 12: Dennis Burns (Six entries/3.45% chance of winning)
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest list of winners for the Coffey Place housing lottery as of Feb. 9. One applicant had been mistakenly awarded a three-bedroom home instead of a two-bedroom duplex during the drawing process, impacting a number of unit assignments; the housing department was later required to reconstruct the lottery, according to an email from Snowmass Village Housing Director Betsy Crum. Another initial winner decided not to purchase a home; the final winners list is subject to change.