Residents of Riversbend nervous over units’ fate |

Residents of Riversbend nervous over units’ fate

Jeremy Heiman

The Riversbend Apartments are again going on the market as condominiums, and the current residents are worried about being forced out.

A real estate agent who will be handling the sale says the units, located on Lower River Road, will probably be available for sale by late May. The building was under contract to be sold a year ago to a buyer who intended to subdivide the apartments. But the sale was torpedoed by the discovery that the septic system was leaking raw sewage into the Roaring Fork River.

Now, residents say, Riversbend owner Gene Adcock of Carbondale has arranged for the units to be sold after a septic system upgrade is approved by the Colorado Health Department. That will take at least two months, said agent Mike Elkins, with Remax’s Carbondale office.

The Riversbend complex has 17 apartments occupied by local workers. Some fear that the units will be priced out of the reach of those local employees and sold as second homes.

“I’m afraid I’ll get a notice that says I’ve got 30 days to come up with $200,000 or get out,” said Eric Hilst, a three-year Riversbend resident.

Hilst said he’s heard the residents will get the first shot at buying their own apartments, but he doesn’t know how he could get financing.

“I’ve been doing my footwork, trying to figure out how to afford this,” he said. “I’d sure like to stay in the unit that I have.”

Elkins confirmed that residents would be allowed to make an offer on their apartments. He also confirmed that the one-bedroom units, like Hilst’s, are expected to go for around $200,000.

“We’d rather sell to everybody that’s there than go out and find new buyers,” Elkins said. “These will probably be the best-priced units anywhere near Aspen.”

Last March, when the building was about to be sold, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority and Pitkin County discussed the possibility of buying down the prices of the apartments, to ensure they would be occupied by local workers.

But no conclusions were reached, and the urgency of the situation went away when the sewage crisis prevented Adcock from selling the building.

County Commission Chairman Mick Ireland said yesterday the conversion of apartments to resort condos is a perennial problem in Aspen.

“We’re going to have to look into it as a county,” Ireland said.

The county does not have the ability to stop or delay the condominiumization of the property. A state law called the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act takes away county and local governments’ ability to prevent or regulate condominiumization.

Though the Housing Authority apparently studied the Riversbend issue last year, Lee Novak, a project manager for the office, said no information was available on that study. If buying down the prices was considered, he said, that issue would have been discussed in executive session. Buy-downs are considered acquisitions, which are customarily discussed behind closed doors.

Hilst is concerned that he and his neighbors won’t receive any help from local officials, despite the breadth of the housing problem in the valley.

“I’m afraid they’re just going to let it slip through their fingers,” he said. “If it’s not right in their faces, they’re not going to do anything about it.”

Linda Adams, who moved out of Riversbend, is still concerned about the fate of the complex.

“I would really be sad to see 38 people get kicked out of their homes,” Adams said.

She noted that larger local employers, such as the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Valley Hospital, the local bus agency and the school district, have problems housing their workers. Some of these institutions provide housing allowances for their workers, Adams said, and are probably big enough to buy a few of these units to house their workers.

“I would hate to see this slip through and be sold to second-home owners,” Adams said.

Riversbend owner Adcock and Housing Authority director Mary Roberts are out of town and could not be reached for comment.

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