Judge refuses to halt work at Burlingame | AspenTimes.com

Judge refuses to halt work at Burlingame

Sarah S. Chung

The stilled bulldozers at the Burlingame seasonal housing site now have a court’s blessing to start digging.

On Wednesday afternoon, District Court Judge Thomas Ossola denied the Maroon Creek Club’s petition to halt construction of the 200-bed affordable housing project on its borders.

Since Ossola’s ruling was made on a preliminary injunction motion, and not on the merits of the lawsuit itself, final judgment on the golf club’s lawsuit could still stop construction down the road. But that’s a chance the city and the Music Associates of Aspen are willing to take.

“Obviously we’re happy with the judge’s decision, but there are still issues to be resolved,” said Robert Harth, MAA president. “The lawsuit could still affect things. Am I fearless? No. But I think the calculated risk is more manageable than prior to the judge’s ruling.”

It’s still feasible to meet the June 1, 2000 deadline for completing construction of the housing, provided there are no more delays, said project manager Jim Curtis. The start of the project has been pushed back three weeks by the litigation.

“It’s going to be very tight,” Curtis said. “We’re going to give it our best shot and still feel we can achieve the deadline. We’ll do everything possible to make that happen.”

The city and MAA are partners in the project. The MAA is under the gun to have the new housing available for Aspen Music Festival and School students next June. It will replace student housing at the Grand Aspen Hotel, which is slated to be demolished.

Two lawsuits, both filed by the private golf club, are still pending against the seasonal housing project at Burlingame Ranch. The Maroon Creek Club’s first suit – regarding shared road access with the housing project – was filed in April. A second lawsuit, objecting to the city’s approval of the project, sought the injunction to halt construction.

Ossola’s ruling follows a two-day hearing last week on the injunction request.

The judge’s decision is “only a preliminary finding,” noted David Lenyo, the club’s attorney, Wednesday.

However, if Ossola’s ruling yesterday is any indication, the club may have difficulty prevailing in the lawsuit that spawned the injunction request.

“The Court concludes that it is convinced that plaintiff is not likely to prevail on the merits of this lawsuit because it is probably barred from protesting defendants’ application by contractual arrangements,” Ossola wrote in his decision.

The contract Ossola referred to is one made between The Paepcke Trust, the former owner of Burlingame Ranch, and James Pearce, an owner of the Maroon Creek Club.

“Pearce then bound himself not to protest, object to or otherwise oppose such application with respect to access along Stage Road; the location of any [type] of development, including employee housing,” noted Ossola in his findings.

Harth said he is encouraged by the language in Ossola’s ruling, but plans to continue negotiations with the golf club in hopes of settling the matter out of court.

“It’s never over ’til it’s over,” Harth said. “We’re certainly very optimistic and very pleased that dialogue has continued with the Maroon Creek Club. I think the city, Music Festival, and the Maroon Creek Club all want to get this resolved.”


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