Aspen Music Fest on the hunt for housing
ASPEN ” Housing at the base of Highlands has hit a sour note with the Aspen Music Festival and School, which is scrambling to find enough beds for its students, who will arrive in town within the next two months.
The festival and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority claim the nonprofit has been denied access to 12 dorm units accommodating 63 beds that are rightfully theirs.
The housing authority in January served a notice of violation to the Meyerstein Trust, alleging that the owners of the units are illegally renting them out.
The housing board last week approved a resolution denying the trust’s appeal that it’s violating the rules by renting the units to employees of The St. Regis Aspen Resort. The housing authority alleges that the owner is in breach of the original approval of the Aspen Highlands Base Village development, which was dependent on making the seasonal units available to the music festival.
Herb Klein, whose law firm is representing the Meyerstein Trust, said he and his clients will decide in the next week whether they will sue the housing authority.
“We’re still considering our options,” Klein said Wednesday. “To litigate or not to litigate are two obvious options.”
Meanwhile, the festival is starting to place staff and students in its other seasonal housing at Marolt and Burlingame Ranch. But those will fill up soon, leaving the festival without enough beds to support its summer programming.
The units currently are being rented to employees of the St. Regis on a month-to-month basis and many of them will become empty in the next month as seasonal employees move out.
Julie Kieffer, qualifications specialist for the housing office, said she has sent a copy of the housing board’s resolution to the St. Regis and Klein’s law firm informing them of the violation. If the units become available and St. Regis employees attempt to qualify as they should, they will be denied.
“The St. Regis knows they don’t have the units this summer,” Kieffer said. “I’m sure the St. Regis doesn’t want to violate the housing rules and I’m not going to approve anyone who comes from the St. Regis.”
Lisa Flynn, human resources director at the St. Regis, didn’t return calls Wednesday seeking comment.
The housing authority also alleges that the owner failed to have employees who live there qualify with the housing office and provide copies of the leases.
Kieffer requested the information and once the documentation was received, she realized the owners allegedly were in violation of the deed restrictions placed on the units, not only because they are refusing them to the festival, but they also are charging more rent than what is allowed.
Kieffer said it’s clearly documented that the Meyerstein Trust is required to rent their units to the festival and that stipulation was dependent on the approval of the development.
Lance Cote, a lawyer representing the Meyerstein Trust, has argued that the housing board doesn’t have the jurisdiction to interpret the contract in question and that his client has not violated any rules.
The festival has been denied access to the Highlands units for the past two summers even though it informed the Meyerstein Trust last year that it would need them for this season.
Jenny Elliot, representing the music fest, said she hopes a resolution can be reached soon.
“We’re talking,” she said. “One lawyer is talking to another.”
The Meyerstein Trust bought 18 deed restricted condominiums from Hines at Aspen Highlands for $5.65 million in 2005. The trust also owns an apartment building at 909 E. Cooper Ave., which houses St. Regis employees. That property was purchased for $2.1 million in 2002.
It’s not known who is behind the Meyerstein Trust or what his or her relationship is to the St. Regis.
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