It’s complicated: S’mass officials, locals struggle with vacant condo
In the 1300 building of the Creekside Condominiums in Snowmass, there is a unit that does not look like the rest.
“Harmful hazardous conditions exist,” a sign taped on the unit’s door says in all caps, hanging next to a piece of fire line caution tape. “Do not enter this Creekside unit without contacting the Snowmass fire marshal.”
The sign seems foreboding, but according to John Mele, fire marshal for Roaring Fork Fire Rescue, the hazardous conditions inside this unit aren’t a current threat to neighbors.
The signage was meant to warn people who may enter of medical bio waste the unit’s owner had left inside before she died, Mele explained — and was posted on the unit door more than two years ago.
Why the unit hasn’t been cleaned out and resold after more than two years is a unique and complicated situation, according to Snowmass Village housing director Betsy Crum and town attorney John Dresser.
The longtime, deed-restricted owner of the Creekside unit died in summer 2017 and left a handwritten will. One of her family members filed the necessary paperwork to become the representative of her estate, but hasn’t taken the necessary steps since to carry out the terms of the will or settle outstanding claims that have been filed in probate court; clear out the Creekside unit; and get it evaluated to help determine a resale price so it can eventually be added back onto the town’s available deed-restricted unit list.
Neither the deceased owner of the Creekside unit nor the representative of her estate are currently in compliance with the town’s deed-restricted housing regulations. But the situation puts the town between a rock and a hard place, Crum and Dresser explained, because the town enforces the deed-restricted housing regulations, including approving inspections of units up for resale and deciding the maximum resale price.
And because the town enforces these regulations, Crum and Dresser said it would be a conflict of interest and a great risk if the town also played a role in managing the deceased woman’s estate by forcing the vacant Creekside unit into compliance while unsettled claims exist.
“The town isn’t in the business of settling people’s estates,” Dresser said. “We want to see the unit back in use, but anything the town does will seem heavy-handed.”
Dresser and Crum said the town has received complaints about the vacant unit and its potential as a safety hazard to other Creekside residents, leading officials to have it inspected for mold and asbestos.
The inspections came back clean and now the town is playing a waiting game dependent on what happens in probate court before it can facilitate the unit’s resale.
“We’d love to see the unit back in use and are prepared to cooperate with the personal representative when they are ready,” Crum said.
The town has reached out to the representative several times, urging the person to meet the terms of the will and move forward with the deed-restricted unit resale process, but to no avail.
Pitkin County probate court officials said the case related to the former Creekside unit owner’s estate is closed, but there are still outstanding medical claims to settle and no future court date set.
The probate case is not accessible to the public through the Colorado Courts Public Access Terminal. However, because the case is an informal estate case, its files can be accessed by the public on request, which was looked into and clarified for the Snowmass Sun by Pitkin County Clerk of Court Jonna Goldstone on Oct. 2.
The only actions taken within the probate case include appointing a personal representative for the deceased Creekside unit owner’s estate and filing the allegedly unsettled medical claims in November 2018.
There hasn’t been any hearings or actions related to the case since then, Goldstone said.
The lack of movement in probate court and the fact that a potential deed-restricted home for a family in need remains vacant is troubling for many locals, including the Creekside Condominiums Homeowner’s Association board members.
“I think there’s a certain level of frustration. Nobody wants to have an employee unit sitting that long, sitting at all, period, especially with the need that there is,” said Karen Kunzer, Creekside HOA president. “It’s an interesting, tough situation that definitely needs to be resolved.”
Kunzer said she feels the association has done all it can to address the situation and is working hard with the town to figure out a way to resolve it.
“It’s unfamiliar territory as far as the dynamics of the estate … but once the ball does get rolling, someone will be fortunate to get that condominium as their home,” Kunzer said. “We terribly miss her (the owner) and wish we weren’t going through all of this, but I hope that it’s a happy ending once we get to it.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the probate case related to the deceased Creekside unit owner’s estate is closed, not open, but that unsettled medical claims exist, according to court documents. The accessibility of the case files has also been clarified.
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