Pitkin County mulls help for Woody Creek homeowners
August 19, 2009
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners declined Tuesday to bail out Woody Creek Mobile Home Park homeowners to the tune of more than $800,000, but then softened their stance and indicated they might be willing to back a loan on the homeowners’ behalf.
The mobile home park was converted from a privately owned rental park to deed-restricted employee housing where owners purchased their lots a few years ago. The homeowners’ association took on a number of infrastructure projects to bring the newly-created subdivision up to county code, including road and utility improvements.
The association came to the county seeking help with $812,980 – including a $464,000 loan and $300,000 in depleted capital reserves. The sum includes cost overruns for the infrastructure work, some of which the association has blamed on a poor job by the project manager hired to oversee it.
The county’s housing fund would presumably be tapped if commissioners chose to help.
“It’s not a bailout fund. It’s a housing fund,” said a resistant Commissioner Michael Owsley.
“Pitkin County isn’t the federal government. We don’t print money, we don’t bail out associations,” agreed Commissioner Jack Hatfield. “The level of this is beyond understanding.”
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Just to repay the loan, the park’s 58 lot owners face payments of about $160 per month for five years, on top of the $180 in homeowner dues they pay monthly. A number of homeowners wrote letters to commissioners explaining their economic difficulties and the challenges posed by the added costs. Some fear they can’t afford to keep the homes they were finally able to purchase after years of working toward that goal.
“This is gut-wrenching for me,” Hatfield said in reference to their pleas.
“Yeah, I’m sure everyone would like an outright grant that makes it all better,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, who joined her colleagues in declining to write a check. She did, however, suggest the county put up the cash to secure the bank loan, which would allow the association to get a better interest rate on the debt.
Commissioner George Newman expressed reluctance to take on that risk, but commissioners directed county staffers to work out a solution along those lines for their consideration.
Securing the loan would at least keep the money in the county’s housing coffers, Commissioner Patti Clapper noted.
“We’d hold your feet to the fire to make sure the money’s paid back,” she told representatives of the homeowners’ association.