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Officials: Motherlode ad out of sync with approval

Kimberly Nicoletti
Mark Fox/The Aspen Times
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Planning commissioners are questioning a real estate advertisement they say misrepresents what the city has approved for the site. Commissioner Ruth Kruger expressed concern at a Jan. 3 meeting about Houston & Gorog’s full-page ad for the Motherlode residence. The company is advertising a 14,540-square-foot, five-bedroom residence at 314 E. Hyman Ave. for $22 million. The ad, which has been running in a local newspaper publication, says it’s a new construction, scheduled for completion by Christmas. Only problem: The city hasn’t approved that kind of project.”This, I think, is really serious because it’s not even close to what we approved,” said Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Jasmine Tygre at the meeting about the ad.Redevelopment of the former Mother Lode restaurant on Hyman Avenue is under way. The project includes additional first floor commercial space and new residences on upper floors. The old restaurant was a one-story building with an outdoor patio that will be filled in with new construction.The city has approved two free-market units and two employee units in the redevelopment, not one free-market residence and one employee unit, as the ad indicates. “It’s at their risk [because] they don’t have formal approval,” Community Development Deputy Director Joyce Allgaier said at the meeting. “They likely are not in any city violation by the ad, but they may be in violation of Realtor ethics.”While codes of ethics govern real estate agents, they don’t prevent agents from advertising something the city hasn’t approved.The National Association of Realtors requires Realtors to “be careful at all times to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public,” according to article 12 of the code.While some real estate agents do advertise a development before gaining the city’s approval, Community Development Director Chris Bendon said ads should state when construction is subject to approval, as a courtesy to the public. He said it’s rare when real estate agents don’t.”I don’t think it’s out of bounds to advertise it [with the clause] as a way to determine if there’s interest in pursuing an amendment,” Bendon added.Some agents are more cautious about how they word ads than others, said Gary Feldman, chairman of the professional standards committee for the Aspen Board of Realtors.”Some brokers choose to disclose it in the ad, and some brokers choose to disclose it on the phone,” Feldman said.

The only buyer-beware sign Houston & Gorog gave was in small print at the bottom of the ad. It said, “Although the information herein is believed to be reliable, it shall be incumbent upon Purchaser to research and investigate all aspects of the subject property to Purchaser’s own satisfaction.” However, after broker Heidi Houston was alerted to the perceived misrepresentation in the ad, she said she was going to add a disclaimer.In the end, if the city approves the new plan it may not be an issue. Stan Clauson Associates prepared a new development application on Dec. 15. The new proposal is asking to combine the second and third floors and reduce the total number of units from four to two. The City Council will consider the proposal under new regulations, which have changed concerning parking and growth management, since it last looked at the project. The review is scheduled for Feb. 27.”On cursory review, it looks like the rules allow something like this, but I haven’t looked at it in-depth,” said Jennifer Phelan, senior long-range planner for the city.Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is knicoletti@aspentimes.com


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