Starwood HOA seeks $3.4 million over stalled home project
The owner of property in a gated neighborhood faces as much in fines for not completing his home as it would cost to buy a modest home in Aspen or a fleet of Range Rovers. Then again, the home has taken longer to build than the four years it took to construct the Golden Gate Bridge or the eight years needed to complete the original White House.
The Starwood HOA introduced court documents Tuesday seeking nearly $3.4 million in fees from Chicago-area businessman Thomas Duckworth, whose residential project has languished for more than 13 years.
Starwood’s filing signaled the latest development in a legal quarrel that dates to March 2018 when Duckworth’s Epic View LLC sued the HOA for what he argued was inflated penalty fees of $900,000. Epic View is the legal name for the entity that owns the property at 1000 S. Starwood Drive.
Construction on Duckworth’s home is nearly complete, according to Brian Pawl, chief building inspector for Pitkin County, the jurisdiction for residential projects in Starwood, an exclusive neighborhood off McLain Flats Road on outskirts of Aspen. Home prices there routinely reach seven and eight figures.
The county expects to issue a certificate of occupancy for the property by mid-June, according to Pawl.
“They’re tying up loose ends now,” he said Wednesday.
The finished residence will have 18,951 square feet of living space and sits on 2.4 acres, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office, which has appraised the property with an actual value of nearly $18.5 million.
In the meantime, Duckworth’s Epic View and Starwood are at odds over what the proper amount in fines should be for the prolonged period of time it took to build the home. Epic View already paid $420,000 toward $900,000 in fines due to the Starwood HOA, but the suit also seeks a court order to waive the fines and refund the $420,000 because the penalty fees were allegedly miscalculated. The suit also contends the Starwood HOA exceeded its authority by issuing the fines while singling out Epic View for the penalty charges.
Starwood’s countercomplaint from Tuesday cites its HOA covenants saying property owners are entitled to 18 months of construction and alteration work to get the job done, or more time if approved by the HOA’s architectural committee.
Duckworth assured the HOA in May 2012 that the project, more than six years in, would be finished “promptly,” Starwood alleges in the countercomplaint. The HOA gave Duckworth final approval to build in December 2005.
“Mr. Duckworth and/or Epic View have subsequently failed to pay a total of approximately $4,360,000 in additional to agreed-upon construction delay fees, which have accrued due to the continued extremely unreasonable delay in completion of construction at the property,” the counterclaim says. “Moreover, Duckworth’s continued construction activities have damaged (the Starwood HOA) by causing an ongoing nuisance to its residents.”
The counterclaim, the second time it has been amended, makes two breach of contract claims. Starwood dropped a third breach of contract claim, which had been in its initial counterclaim.
The suit from Duckworth and Epic View says construction lingered because it was suspended in late 2008 to mid-2010 because of “unfavorable economic conditions commonly referred to as the Great Recession.” Additionally, the project was set back by delays in receiving approvals from Pitkin County and delays receiving LEED certification, the suit says.
Basalt attorney Corey Zurbach, who represents Duckworth and Epic View, as well as Highlands Ranch law firm Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP, counsel for Starwood, could not be reached for immediate comment Wednesday.
Pitkin County District Court is the venue for the case.