District judge again rules against Aspen man trying to keep his house
It’s not just the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority that’s been impacted by Lee Mulcahy’s ability to hold onto his employee-housing unit by using various legal avenues, but also the local public at large, Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin said in a ruling delivered Thursday.
In his latest order against Mulcahy in his legal feud with the housing authority, Seldin asserted that “some deserving family that is actually in compliance with APCHA’s affordable-housing guidelines will ultimately succeed in securing Mulcahy’s residence.”
Seldin’s ruling denied Mulcahy’s motion to stall the enforcement of his 2016 order that Mulcahy sell his house, through what’s referred to in legal speak as a “stay.” The judge’s ruling noted the case has gone through the state district and appeals courts, while the Colorado and United States supreme courts elected not to review the case.
Even without the stay, however, Mulcahy can legally remain at his single-family home at Burlingame Ranch, an affordable-housing complex the housing authority governs, according to APCHA counsel Tom Smith.
“All signs are pointing to the goal line,” Smith said Friday, “but it’s not over yet, in terms of what’s going on in the courts.”
Mulcahy has another motion to appeal pending before Seldin — this one arguing his rights to due process were denied when APCHA began taking steps to have him sell his house, and the case should start from scratch. Mulcahy had argued that the judgment should be stayed until after the court rules on his motion to appeal.
“We’re obviously going to oppose that appeal, and we’ll see what happens,” Smith said.
Mulcahy and his attorney on the matter, Jordan Porter of Denver, said they will keep pressing on despite Seldin’s ruling.
“Mr. Mulcahy will continue to fight for his constitutional rights,” Porter said. “Notably, Mr. Mulcahy routinely takes documentation showing his compliance as an artist with APCHA’s guidelines to City Council and other local government public comment sessions. He stands ready to show his compliance at any time.”
Mulcahy lives there with his mother, Sandy, who said, “We’re not leaving.”
Reacting to Seldin’s ruling, Mulcahy said he realizes his case has divided the community to a point.
“People know deep down in their hearts that my constitutional rights to due process were violated,” he said.
The case has played out in the public arena — from media reports to online story comments to Mulcahy’s vocal pleas to local officeholders — with some saying APCHA has unfairly singled out the activist and artist. Others, however, say the case is simple: Mulcahy has not followed the rules required of those living in affordable housing, chiefly his ability to hold down full-time employment in Pitkin County.
Mulcahy, who has sporadically worked various jobs around town, from taxi driver to part-time teacher, had maintained that his full-time job is as an artist, where income flow is not as consistent as other lines of work. APCHA hasn’t seen it that way, and sued Mulcahy in December 2015, alleging he didn’t meet the authority’s ownership requirements of working 1,500 hours a year in Pitkin County.
Seldin’s Thursday ruling said “this latest motion is best understood as an effort by Mulcahy to delay the effect of a judgment that has now been affirmed on appeal.”
The judge concluded the one-page order remarking about the importance of complying with the housing rules and its impacts valley-wide.
“Meanwhile, even with its affordable-housing inventory, the city of Aspen is wholly incapable of housing the majority of its workforce, and thus imports them from elsewhere,” Seldin’s order said. “The attendant traffic impacts detrimentally affect communities throughout the length of the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. Glenwood Springs and Basalt, for example, suffer traffic jams significantly occasioned by Aspen’s commuting workforce. And this is to say nothing of the effect on the thousands of individuals ensnared in traffic jams at the entrance to Aspen. Many of those enduring such long commutes and wasted time away from family would doubtless jump at the opportunity to live in Mulcahy’s home and educate their children near their places of work. Ensuring that affordable housing is actually occupied by people in compliance with APCHA’s Guidelines is, therefore, of widespread consequence indeed.”
In a statement he issued Friday, Mulcahy struck a different tone, once again dropping the name of Lester Crown, whose family owns Aspen Skiing Co., which once employed Mulcahy.
“At its dark heart, this case wasn’t just about APCHA and its corrupt practices, but about making an object lesson on anyone who dared to criticize the owner of the company that owns the company town, billionaire Lester Crown,” he said. “Our constitutional rights to due-process rights were egregiously violated.”
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Basalt town government and its consultants have been working on an update to the 2007 land use master plan since April. The process has entered a critical stage. Residents can help determine density on key land parcels and other important issues at a meeting tonight.