Lawyer: Condo association not seeking more money after controversial swap | AspenTimes.com
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Lawyer: Condo association not seeking more money after controversial swap

John Colson

An attorney said a local condominium association has no plans “at this time” to demand more money from a neighbor building a house on land he obtained in a controversial trade.

Lenny Oates, attorney for the Hunter Creek Commons Board, said May 11 that “it is the view of the Commons Board that the deal that was originally made … was a fair deal.”

The board oversees the condo association for more than 300 owners at Hunter Creek, and in 2002 entered into an agreement to swap a 5,600-square-foot piece of association-owned land, which adjoined the building site Hicks owned, for a piece of equal size that Hicks also owned nearby.

The deal was created to provide Hicks with additional land on which to build his 4,600-square-foot-house and relocate two historic cottages that had formed the core of an earlier home. As part of the deal, Hicks paid the Commons Corp. approximately $26,800, on top of handing over his 5,600-square-foot parcel of vacant land.

But Hunter Creek condo owner Bob Nix questioned the propriety of the deal, pointing out that the Commons Board never got the OK from the condo association members.

Plus, Nix’s research revealed, the condo association could not own the parcel Hicks traded to Hunter Creek because it carries a county-imposed affordable housing deed restriction. Pitkin County codes require that the owner be an actual person and a resident of Pitkin County, Oates conceded in an interview last week, and many Hunter Creek owners are not legal residents of the county.

In addition, Hicks never secured the title to his new parcel of land in his own name, so he does not formally own the property he has been developing. Nix asked the city to shut down the Hicks development while all those issues are being studied, but the city’s community development department and the city council have both refused to do so. Meanwhile, the Commons Board, acting on Oates’ advice, has “repudiated” the 2002 deal with Hicks in light of the problems Nix revealed.

Oates said negotiations will begin soon among the Commons Board, the city and the county to “remove the impediments to title running both ways” and determine what needs to be done to satisfy all the different parties to the dispute.

He said the Commons Board hopes to straighten out the title problems, then take the original deal to the condo association membership for an up-or-down vote. If the association members approve the agreement, he said, “that will be then end of the dispute as far as Commons is concerned.”

If the members reject the deal, he said, there is no certainty about what might happen next.

And if Nix is not satisfied with whatever happens, Oates said, “I guess he can sue everybody in sight.”

Nix, reached while traveling, said he is “still licking my wounds” from a recent Aspen City Council meeting where the council refused to consider his bid to have Hicks’ construction project shut down while the legalities of the matter are sorted out.

The council members, along with the city attorney, concluded the matter is likely to end up in the courts and that the city is likely to be dragged into it.

“The city decided not to decide, and that’s fine,” Nix said of the May 8 meeting in City Hall. “I’ve done my job [bringing the matter to light], but it’s still a mess,” a reference to city attorney John Worcester’s statement at the council meeting.

“My position is, if we don’t get a price that’s the fair market value for our property, I’ll file a lawsuit,” he said. Nix is a retired judge from Illinois who has lived in Hunter Creek for six years ” two years as a renter and four as an owner. He has been representing himself in the dispute over the land trade, and has been studying Colorado law regarding the potential suit.

Nix has consistently criticized the city’s planners for treating the land swap as a “lot line adjustment” and approving it without a formal hearing before the City Council.

“What it comes down to is, the city should have done the right thing and followed the law,” he declared. “I think it should have gone in the first place to the City Council as a subdivision.”

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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