Ruling in Obermeyer eviction overturned | AspenTimes.com

Ruling in Obermeyer eviction overturned

Abigail Eagye

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN An appeals court judge has overturned a ruling that allowed Obermeyer Place Holding Co. to evict a tenant from a downtown Aspen building last year.In January 2005, a district court jury unanimously agreed that Main Street Quick Print & Copy didn’t have a lease in the City Plaza building on East Hopkins Avenue and had no right to occupy office space there.The copy shop once leased a space on Bleeker Street in the area that is now Obermeyer Place. As part of redevelopment plans Obermeyer spearheaded, developers tried to relocate many of the displaced businesses until they could move into the new buildings, if they so wished.Obermeyer helped Main Street relocate to a space in the City Plaza building, but an acrimonious dispute over higher rent and the condition of the office space resulted in several lawsuits.Obermeyer sued to evict Main Street from the space because former owner Mona Long failed to sign a lease.Long said Monday she refused to sign the new lease because of the higher rent, which, she claims, was not part of the deal when her business agreed to relocate to that spot. She also said it wasn’t clear from whom she would be renting, Obermeyer or the owners of the building, Dave Danforth and Dan Martineau. Danforth is owner of the Aspen Daily News, which is also in the City Plaza building. Furthermore, Long had concerns about potentially toxic mold and a noxious gas smell in the new office space.Obermeyer had argued that maintaining the conditions of the lease was contingent upon Long’s signing a new lease. A jury in that case sided with Obermeyer, forcing Main Street out of the building. Shortly after, Main Street officially went out of business and filed for bankruptcy.The appellate court disagreed with the lower court’s ruling, saying that a Jan. 28 letter from Tim Belinski, vice president of Obermeyer Redevelopment Co., constituted an agreement to maintain Main Street’s lease conditions at its new location.”Belinski’s letter can reasonably be understood to say that Obermeyer would present Main Street with a lease containing the same base rent and other proposed provisions,” according to court documents released Friday.According to those documents, Long originally filed a complaint against Obermeyer in July 2004, a month before Obermeyer sued to evict her from the City Plaza building. Although the two suits originally were to be heard together, a trial court severed the two.Long said that hurt Main Street as a defendant in the Obermeyer case because the jury wasn’t able to hear about the environmental problems she cited as part of why she wouldn’t sign the lease.She called the lawsuit “complicated,” and she alleged that Obermeyer was suing her in “retaliation” for her complaints about the environment.At the 2005 trial, Obermeyer attorneys moved to exclude evidence relating to those problems, claiming it wasn’t relevant to the issue of Main Street’s “possession” of the office space.The appellate court upheld that decision, saying that Main Street’s argument that Obermeyer’s attempt to evict was retaliation is unsubstantiated.”It is undisputed that Obermeyer demanded that Main Street vacate the premises before Main Street informed any third party about the alleged environmental problems,” the court documents state.The appellate court’s ruling sends Obermeyer’s suit back to the district court. Long said she doesn’t yet know how she will act in that case, having only learned about the ruling Friday.But, she said, the appellate court’s ruling will allow her to move forward with her own lawsuit in which she will seek damages for losses incurred through the disruption and subsequent bankruptcy of her 20-year-old business. She also said trustees for Main Street likely will pursue damages as well.Long said she had put a stay on her lawsuit, pending the outcome of her appeal of Obermeyer’s case against her.The appellate court’s finding that she did have a lease agreement, she said, means she will “absolutely” pursue her suit against Obermeyer and other defendants for damages. Long said the owners of the City Plaza building are also named in her suit, as well as Klaus Obermeyer himself and Bill Murphy, her landlord when the copy shop was at its Bleeker Street location.”The bankruptcy has certainly hurt me. I lost my good credit,” she said. “It’s caused me great harm.”The appellate court ruling also states that Obermeyer cannot ask for Main Street to pay attorneys’ fees, as it requested as the “prevailing party” in the case, since it has been remanded for further judgment.Representatives for Obermeyer were not available for comment Monday night, but Long counted the ruling as a victory.”I was vindicated,” she said. “I was correct.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com