Pitco sued in building permit battle | AspenTimes.com

Pitco sued in building permit battle

Naomi Havlen

A lawsuit has been filed against Pitkin County by an Aspen company that wants to build a house, stable and caretaker unit on McLain Flats Road.

The suit, filed Thursday afternoon in Pitkin County District Court, claims that 2070 McLain Flats Road, LLC underwent a hazard review for a building permit in 2000 to build up to 15,000 square feet of residential floor area.

When the company’s plans for the property were redesigned in 2003, they claim they applied for a 180-day extension of the building permit, which originally was to expire on Dec. 1, 2003. The lawsuit claims the amendment was not meant to relinquish the permit to build 14,895 square feet on the property, but was meant as additional time to consider redesigning the project, and reducing the floor area.

The lawsuit claims that, in the meantime, Pitkin County adopted a growth management ordinance in 2000, limiting floor area to 5,750. As a result, the suit claims the board of county commissioners “struggled with how to treat the minor amendment application.”

Although the amendment to the hazard review approval was approved on July 9, 2003, a miscommunication followed with the county, the suit claims. The Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution to extend the vested rights under the initial approval process for three years, without specifically addressing the 14,895-square-foot building permits issued for the project in June 2003.

The plaintiffs claim that they felt the building permits for the large complex was still valid because of the extension resolution, either to construct it or to submit a redesign for the property. The suit claims that they obtained electrical sub-permits for the project in November 2003, and it was later inspected and approved by Pitkin County building officials.

But the company claims they later were told that their 14,894-square-foot building permits were not valid. In a number of conflicting letters from county officials, the project’s architect was told that the building permits were both valid and had expired. The suit claims that the company spent “substantial sums in reliance on the building permits” when their building permits had been purportedly revoked.

The company is asking for a declaratory judgment that the county could not revoke the original building permits, and that the permits are valid.

The suit also claims the inability to obtain proper permits from the county constitutes a takings of the land on McLain Flats Road. The company asks that the court declare the county’s decision to revoke the permits “arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com