Keator Grove homeowners rebuffed |

Keator Grove homeowners rebuffed

Nelson Harvey
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Homeowners in Carbondale’s Keator Grove neighborhood struggling to sell their affordable housing units in a weak economy won’t get relief from the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

Despite expressing their sympathy for the homeowners plight, the trustees voted 5-1 Tuesday night to deny a request from the Keator Grove Homeowners Association and the Aspen Skiing Co. The parties had asked that the town remove an affordable housing deed restriction placed on some units in the neighborhood that prevents home values from appreciating by more than 4 to 6 percent.

Of the 52 units in Keator Grove, 30 are bound by such appreciation caps. The Aspen Skiing Co. owns 16 units in the complex.

The homeowners also requested that the trustees reduce the sales commission fee paid to the Garfield County Housing Authority, which oversees Carbondale’s affordable housing program, from 1.5 percent of sale price to a flat fee of $1,000.

The authority, which would see a significant decrease in revenue under such a change, recommended that the trustees deny it, and they complied.

Several neighborhood homeowners told the trustees that the appreciation caps make their homes unattractive to potential buyers in the current weak housing market, and make it unlikely that their home values will rebound to pre-recession levels when the economy improves.

“We can’t sell and we can’t rent,” said Maria Bagby, who owns a deed restricted unit in Keator Grove. “We either need to know that we can rent the way that others can, or that we can sell the way that others can.”

After the housing market crashed in 2007, the Carbondale trustees modified the deed restrictions on homes in Keator Grove to allow homeowners to rent their units. However, the maximum rental period allowed is two years, meaning that homeowners who wish to move for employment or other reasons lack the option of renting longer-term.

Bagby said she would like to pursue a job offer in California, but can’t leave because of the rental restrictions.

Trustee Allyn Harvey, who sided with the homeowners in casting the lone dissenting vote, said he would like the county housing authority to revisit those requirements, and perhaps extend the rental period.

“I think we ought to be giving people some sense of mobility,” he said.

On the question of removing appreciation caps, however, several trustees expressed reservations about modifying affordable housing rules simply because of current market weakness.

“I don’t want to rewrite the rules just because the system is crashing,” said Trustee Pam Zentmeyer.

Removing deed restriction for one project, she said, could set a precedent and encourage owners of other affordable units in Carbondale to ask to have their deed restrictions removed.

The request from homeowners and Ski Co. represents the latest of several attempts in recent years to make the affordable units in Keator Grove more competitive with market rate housing.

In the mid-2000s, when home prices were rising inexorably, many homeowners were happy to buy into deed restricted units. When prices dropped, however, some residents found themselves owing more in mortgage payments than their house was worth, with little prospect of recovering their full losses.

“Deed restrictions placed on Keator Grove were designed during a time of economic gain and did not account for a reversal of the system [reduction in home values],” reads a letter the Keator Grove Homeowners Association submitted to the trustees in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

Carbondale real estate agent Cindy Sadlowski, however, told the trustees that the real problem facing homeowners wishing to sell is one that local governments have little control over.

“It’s the foreclosures and short sales that are bringing prices down,” she said, referring to the remaining backlog of foreclosed homes across the country from the housing market crash in 2007. “I don’t think removing the price caps would solve these homeowners’ problems.”

In other action, the trustees:

• Directed staff to modify an ordinance governing the keeping of chickens and other fowl within town limits. One major change was to increase the number of birds allowed per household from six to 10, provided that only six are laying at a given time and the rest are young birds that have not reached laying age.

The changes also allow the keeping of ducks, geese and other fowl besides chickens, and create regulations for communal chicken coops, which may house up to 32 birds. The changes were placed on the consent agenda for approval at the next trustee meeting Oct. 9.

• Chastised David Reindel, chairman of the volunteer Carbondale Environmental Board, for using profane and inflammatory language during comments to the Garfield County commissioners on Sept. 17. Testifying on a proposed waste transfer station at the Mid Continent Resources site in Carbondale, Reindel called the potential jobs created by the proposed station “miserable,” and used colorful language to raise the possibility of school children in the area being “whacked” by garbage trucks.

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