Aspen’s housing board takes steps that lead closer to eviction for embattled resident
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board agreed Wednesday to use nearly $1 million from a charitable donation given to the agency by the late Fabi Benedict to purchase the home that embattled Burlingame resident Lee Mulcahy is being evicted from.
A court-ordered receiver will purchase the single-family home at its maximum sales price of $995,000 out of the $1.4 million private donation fund, which is restricted to affordable housing development, including land acquisition and hard construction costs, according to APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky.
But because the property is encumbered with an unpaid $1.2 million note to Mulcahy’s family, as well as the costs that are expected for improvements to the house for resale and liens from APCHA for legal fees from the four-year legal battle with Mulcahy, taxpayers will have to shoulder the delta between what’s owed minus the sales price.
It could be up to a $500,000 difference. Whatever the amount is, that money will come from APCHA’s operating fund, which is used to purchase foreclosures and sales resulting from compliance and enforcement actions.
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The city and county each year allocate $500,000 to the fund, which is typically paid back after the acquisition and resale of those properties.
Just how APCHA will recoup the money on Mulcahy’s home remains to be seen, since an inspection of the property has not been completed and litigation to recover legal fees may be necessary.
Once the property has sold, the charitable trust will be paid back at a 1.8 percent interest rate.
APCHA board member and City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she supports having the charitable fund be the conduit to purchase the home, as long as it’s made whole at the end and it expedites the eviction.
“It’s like untangling a Gordian Knot,” she said. “It’s time to move forward.”
Kosdrosky said there are three options for clearing the title on the property, which is located at 53 Forge Road in the city-developed Burlingame Ranch affordable-housing subdivision across from Buttermilk.
APCHA could initiate collections against Mulcahy, or the agency could increase the maximum sales price and try to recover its costs from the higher resale price, which would require approval from Aspen City Council to amend the deed restriction.
The third option is for APCHA to lift the deed restriction entirely and sell it as a free-market unit, which also requires Council approval.
Mulcahy, who’s been in litigation with APCHA since 2015 when he was found out of compliance for not proving that he works in Pitkin County the required 1,500 hours a year, has generated roughly $145,000 in legal bills for the agency from 2015 to ’19.
APCHA has prevailed in Mulcahy’s enforcement case in Pitkin County District Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, Mulcahy has appealed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and this week was granted an extension to file court documents in the U.S. Supreme Court.
While his eviction is imminent, Mulcahy said after APCHA’s board meeting Wednesday that he thinks there could be another year of delays.
APCHA and its board are moving forward faster than that.
The next step is getting a purchase agreement signed between APCHA and the receiver, the latter of which will then pursue an order from Pitkin County District Court to sell the property, according to APCHA Deputy Director Cindy Christensen.
But Mulcahy and his 84-year-old mother, Sandy, have said they have no plan to leave. They’ve told elected officials in public meetings that violence may ensue if they are forcibly removed.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo has said previously he wants a peaceful end to the situation and will do whatever is necessary to carry out the eviction in that manner.
Kosdrosky said there are many risks for APCHA in purchasing the property.
“In terms of timing, APCHA has no way of knowing how long it will take to have Mr. Mulcahy vacate the home, clear the title, seek additional litigation, make the necessary improvements and repairs, or go through the political process to amend the deed restriction, if necessary,” he wrote in a memo to the APCHA board. “The two greatest risks are timing and making the necessary repairs and improvements to make it a marketable deed-restricted unit in accordance with the city’s building code and APCHA’s marketability standards.”
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