Pitchfork owner required to sell property due to violations

Current rental lease honored through August 2021

[ By Kendra Walker ]

At the recommendation of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA), the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council is requiring a Pitchfork neighborhood owner to sell his deed-restricted property due to multiple deed restriction violations.

At the November 4 Town Council meeting, GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode reported that Trent Sanderson, owner of 110B Pitchfork, has been in violation of the Pitchfork Occupancy and Resale Restriction, Agreement and Covenant.

Sanderson was officially notified on October 1 by the GVRHA of several violations he had made, including: not using the property as his sole and exclusive place of residence and renting to households of unknown qualification; failing to offer the property for sale to a qualified buyer; and not getting his current rental lease agreement approved by GVRHA, which could indicate his charged rents may exceed his monthly costs to own the property. The rental of the unit is not intended to become an income-producing asset, explained Kermode.

“Mr. Sanderson acknowledged to GVRHA staff that he had rented the unit out several times before and thought his property management company [Crested Butte Lodging] was adhering to the terms of his deed restriction on his behalf,” Kermode said.

Through further investigation, the GVRHA found two additional violations. Under the deed restriction requirements, the qualified buyer must be employed in Gunnison County and derive 80 percent of their total income from wages or salary from said employment.

Sanderson is the founder and owner of Team Prep USA; however, through conversations with him the GVRHA suspects he is doing minimal work in the valley.

“It does not appear Mr. Sanderson is earning a living here in the county,” said Kermode, referring to his training camps in Florida and Georgia and his mention of working on the Front Range because “It’s hard to get anyone to come to Gunnison County because it’s so remote,” Kermode paraphrased.

Second, the deed restriction states that the qualified buyer should not own an interest in any real property except for one parcel of real property zoned or used for commercial purposes and/or one unimproved residential lot or building site. According to GVRHA, Sanderson purchased three Three Seasons condos in 2009 and one unit in the Mountaineer Square condos in 2015, all of which are owned in the name of his business. One was purchased in his name but has since been transferred to his business.

Sanderson has not denied that he is in violation of the Pitchfork Occupancy and Resale Deed Restriction, Agreement and Covenant, said Kermode, and he has asked to be allowed to honor the existing lease agreement with his current tenant and sell the property once it terminates in August 2021.

Since Sanderson’s current tenant is a local employee of the area, the housing authority recommended that Sanderson be allowed to honor the lease terms, with the conditions that he produce evidence of his total monthly housing expense and modify his rent to a maximum of $50 per month over this housing expense, and that he agree to sell the property immediately after the current lease expires in August 2021.

“What would happen with the renters if the house went on the market now?” mayor Janet Farmer asked Kermode.

“The lease would terminate early and the tenant would be removed and displaced from housing, which is a concern for us,” said Kermode.

“I’m in the camp of not displacing someone who’s living here making their money in the valley,” said council member Roman Kolodziej.

Sanderson was given the opportunity to speak to the council, and told them he has been a business owner in the valley for almost 16 years. When asked how long he had not lived in the Pitchfork property, he said he moved out of the property approximately four years ago.

“After talking to Jennifer I can see that I should have reached out to the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority and I even let her know that,” said Sanderson. “As far as owning another unit, in Three Seasons, that is actually all commercial. I’m actually the vice president of the board there, I’m on the board at 110B Pitchfork as well…”

Sanderson continued, “I do a lot for the valley, I do a lot for both Crested Butte and Gunnison Valley… I’ve really busted my butt here. I do 95 percent of my business, and that’s a fact, in the Gunnison Valley and I can prove that.

“My impression now was about a year ago a lady came in, and I had the impression, that worked with the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority, and came in and was not qualified, that’s how Jennifer got the call… I do feel like Jennifer has been nothing but grateful and nice to me but I do feel like there’s a little bit of an inside job there because I had the impression that the lady that’s renting there now either worked for them or is trying to find a place…”

He continued, “…I did hope to one day get things right and live in that place in this valley… As far as just going and renting it and not listening and owning and buying, that’s not correct.”

Sanderson also told the council that it was his understanding that the rent for his unit was $1,100 a month, and didn’t know when that increased under Crested Butte Lodging’s management. Kermode confirmed in a copy of the lease that the rent is $1,350 a month.

The council agreed to honor the current lease of the unit, requiring that Sanderson sell his property immediately after the lease terminates in August 2021. They also asked him to provide documentation of his rental income since he moved out of the unit, and to provide a credit to the existing tenants based on what they were overcharged each month.

Further deed restrictions discussion
Interim town manager Carlos Velado also noted that the town recently had a situation arise in Pitchfork where someone was looking to purchase a deed-restricted unit, but was not eligible because they had not lived in the valley for at least a year, one of the requirements. “They were moving from out of town, had a job lined up at the ski area with a management position,” said Velado. “They requested an appeal, but we ultimately determined that our hands are tied.”

Velado suggested that the council amend the deed restrictions to allow town to consider a waiver for situations like this, among other case-by-case scenarios.

Kermode agreed, saying, “If you don’t have the ability to grant a waiver you may stick somebody with a property that they cannot sell …so you would always get the opportunity to decide if a waiver request has merit or not, but just having the ability to consider a waiver request is important when you have deed restrictions that are going to live in perpetuity.”

Council agreed and asked staff to look into possible language for an amendment to discuss at an upcoming council meeting.

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