Saturday, September 23, 2017
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Stop with the BS and get real with the ADU threat

I am happy to report there has been no movement toward a lawsuit over a couple of Crested Butte accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that the owners don’t want to rent to long-term working locals. The town believes they are obligated to do so under town regulations and a deal that was cut when the property was built on. The town has given the owners until December 19 to rectify the conflict.

This week, however, the homeowners submitted long-term leases to the town. Sounds good but after reading the leases, it made my blood pressure go up. Upon first glance, those leases indicate an extreme charitable bent. The leases are for $1 a month with a $10 security deposit. Wow. Sign me up. But it clearly appears the leases are signed by relatives of the owners or business partners in a corporation that might as well be named FUCB, LLC, and who I’d bet a dime to a dollar won’t live in them. The documents are obviously not based in reality and are meant as a “clever” legal maneuver for us small town rubes. Does it mean Misters Kiltz and Mize meet the letter of the town regulations?  Maybe. As I stated last week, there seems no black-and-white obvious decision that a judge would hand down if this ADU dilemma made it to the courtroom. The homeowners could have very valid points with the letter of the law and the ordinance changes made by the town. Truly, the intentions of the councils in the 1990s and 2000s seem pretty darn clear as well.

Look, while not yet at absolute crisis mode, the workforce housing situation has only gotten more serious in recent years. According to the just released housing needs assessment survey, literally hundreds of jobs are going unfilled because people can’t find places to live. There are essentially no vacancies out there and rents are rising. Sale prices for homes and condos are only going up and it is getting more and more difficult for not just single ski bums to find places to reside in the northern part of the valley, but families are being pushed out as well.

So the Town Council members are looking at the issue with a hard eye. They have instructed the staff to crack down and preserve any housing they can. They figure that keeping deed-restricted ADUs in the long-term rental pool is a better bang for the buck than constructing new housing at the cost of hundreds of dollars a square foot. They are serious and willing to bet on it and haven’t backed away from threats of lawyers or legal maneuvering. It is pretty bold actually because they could lose more than two ADUs.

If the homeowners are serious about not renting their ADUs to local workers, as they seem to be, and are signing basically faux leases to try to meet some legal standard that meets nothing of the intent and need of the community — I’d say bring it. If that’s the attitude, sue the town and settle that ADU controversy. I think the homeowners could have a decent chance to prevail. (I also have a bet the Broncos will repeat as Super Bowl champs.) Just please stop with the stupid lawyer tricks.

In a scenario where the Town Council is sending a clear message they will go to the mat to try to secure a couple more places for locals to live—and they see those ADUs as a place for locals based on a clear-cut deal made with the property—go for it. And if you win—congratulations. Some of the other ADUs will likely follow your example but not all of them will.

And when you go out to dinner and have to wait two hours for your steak because there aren’t enough cooks in the kitchen—relish your victory and the special sauce from the overworked kitchen crew. When you and the family come to celebrate the Fourth of July and the parade is made up of a couple of politicians with cardboard signs instead of a funky, colorful gathering of kooks—relish your victory. When you want to go on a wildflower tour and there is no one to guide you—relish your victory. When the chairlifts your grandkids like to ride aren’t running because there aren’t lifties available—relish your victory.

Again I will respectfully ask that the homeowners really think about the bigger picture and try to find a comfortable way to rent the ADUs to local workers they can trust, as was the clear intent of the deal that came with the property. No one wants to put you in a weird rental situation.

There is no reason to fear a lawsuit, except for the money spent by both sides. Courts are there to make fair rulings based on the reading and intentions of the law. It is rare but not unheard of for disputes to be settled in court in Crested Butte. The idea in settling conflicts around here is to normally talk like neighbors at first, then bring in the lawyers and talk like neighbors and if all else fails, go to court and deal with the decision like neighbors. You know, it’s not like the town hides many of its intentions.

So stop with the cheap lease theatrics that waste people’s time and make blood pressures rise. If you haven’t noticed, most people in Crested Butte appreciate frank, real action, not bullshit. Seems to me there are a few obvious ways to proceed: cut to the chase and figure a way to honestly rent the ADU as it was intended under the obvious deal; come up with a real settlement like offering to pay for the construction of a comparable home or the purchase of a free-market condo in town that can be deed restricted and will be rented to workforce housing; sell the controversial property and buy another that doesn’t come with a deed restriction; or sue the town and settle the issue in a court of law and let you, other ADU owners and the town deal with the ramifications. But a $12 a year lease to your relative or buddy? Let’s get real.

—Mark Reaman

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