Snowmass resident’s physical plight threatens housing
A resident is on the brink of losing his home in Snowmass Village because he hasn’t been working enough to meet worker-housing requirements, which he said is due to physical disabilities and medical hardships.
Robert Kemp has been in a three-year struggle with the town of Snowmass Village to keep his Creekside Condominium housing unit that he acquired in 2004.
He has lived in Snowmass Village for a total of 33 years. His jobs have included driving shuttles for Snowmass Village and Aspen Community School. Most recently, he was in the process of developing a home business that focused on providing STEM education to students during school breaks, he said.
He lost his ability to work, however, when he began having health issues that prevented him from leaving his home, he said.
“I have been burdened by chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia since age 19, but the symptoms were usually manageable,” Kemp wrote in an email. “In more recent years, I have suffered limited mobility due to spinal injury, along with more profound episodes of fatigue and ‘brain fog’ (which are common symptoms of those diseases). Three years ago, in a stroke-like event, I lost my executive functions, and I’ve not been able to manage any facet of my life since.”
The town sued him in March, following a compliance investigation into his housing situation dating back to August 2019. During the investigation, the town had little success getting Kemp to provide documentation that he still qualified for ownership under its housing guidelines, according to written pleadings in Pitkin County District Court.
His one bedroom-unit falls under the town’s permanent moderate housing category (PHMR), the town’s suit said. That housing category provides no “exemption from the continuing requirements for employment based upon injury or disability, because such an exemption would be contrary to the fundamental purpose of the PMHR, which is to provide affordable housing for members of the local workforce.”
The little information Kemp provided the town was not enough to put him in compliance of the affordable-housing rules, which require dwellers to work for a Pitkin County-based employer for a minimum of 1,400 hours over at least eight months in the calendar year or have reached the age of 62 after having been the owner of the unit for at least 10 years. Kemp is 58 years old.
He said he wants to work and has continued to search for employment that can accommodate his needs.
“I want to get back to work; I just don’t want to be held to that 1,400-hour-per-year bar,” he said.
Kemp now must find a lawyer to respond to the town’s lawsuit, which he hasn’t done yet. He has asked the court for permission to delay the lawsuit, so he can find counsel. He also has asked the court to pause the suit until there is an outcome to his discrimination complaint against the town with Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies. The complaint alleged the town discriminated against Kemp because of his disabilities. The town has said the allegations are without merit.
Snowmass attorney Thomas Smith responded to Kemp’s request to pause the lawsuit in an Oct. 26 court filing that said, “For over three years, Kemp has made complaints to TOSV of an ever-evolving list of ailments that are alleged to prevent him from working. However, while staff of 4 TOSV have repeatedly given Kemp time to recover from his maladies and go back to work or to document medical conditions alleged to constitute disabilities precluding work, he has always failed to do so. Now, Kemp asserts, his poor health not only prevents him from working; it prevents him from litigating this case. Yet, once again, Kemp has not provided the Court with any diagnoses or other medical evidence to support his assertion that he suffers from ‘fibromyalgia, ADD, dementia, metabolic deficiency, orthopedic injuries, and a vision deficit …’, or that any of these alleged conditions render him incapable of defending himself in this action.”
Kemp said he did his best to keep the town apprised of his situation, but his worsening cognitive problems limited his effort.
“I had this strange stroke-like event that I lost a lot of my executive functions. I was having really bad cognitive problems after that. And so, I met with Betsy (Crum, the housing director for Snowmass) and explained my predicament,” he said.
Crum requested that Kemp track his home business hours and submit them to her, but Kemp’s health issues prevented him from doing so.
“I kept getting worse and worse with my cognition, especially. I just kind of lost track of responding,” he said. “Eventually, I submitted the argument that our permanent moderate housing regulations should have some sort of process or some way to get an exemption for the work requirement for people who are injured or disabled, etc. in special circumstances.”
In an email in February 2020, Crum informed Kemp that the information he provided showed he had not received income for several years, and he was not in compliance with PMHR. She again requested information from Kemp to demonstrate compliance. A certified letter dated Nov. 11, 2020, informed Kemp he had failed to show compliance and failed to return the biennial re-qualification affidavit. As a result, he was asked to list his property for sale.
On May 25, 2021, he sent a letter to the Town Council in order to appeal for a variance to the regulations and to suggest amending the regulations to allow for greater inclusivity.
TOSV Town Manager Clint Kinney informed Kemp he would review the request and asked Kemp to provide written documentation to support his need for an exemption. Kemp said he did that but was still told to sell his home because he was out of compliance with town housing rules. The case remains active, and he remains at his home.
“I am completely freaked out. It’s hard for anyone else to imagine how stressful it can be to have this existential threat over you,” he said. “If the town wins this lawsuit, I’m not sure what happens next. I’m not sure staying here and finding housing somewhere else is doable or not. It all depends on how things play out, and I don’t have a good feeling for anything.”
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.
Last month, the City Council adopted 49 amendments to the International Building Code that will go into effect April 1 — no joke.