An Aspen woman could face thousands of dollars in fines if she is convicted of living in her condominium without a building permit, as alleged by the city of Aspen.
A community safety officer, acting on behalf of the city’s community development department, cited Mona Long last month for allegedly violating the municipal ordinance that prevents residing in a home that does not have a certificate of occupancy (CO).
Stephen Kanipe, the city’s chief building official, issued a correction notice on Oct. 12 to Long that says she was living in her home without the proper approval from the Aspen Fire Protection District. Her home in the 800 block of East Cooper Avenue has been undergoing a remodel.
The notice gave Long 10 days to correct the alleged infraction, which involves installing a fire-sprinkler system. Kanipe issued a stop-work order on Oct. 22 after the issue apparently went unresolved, according to court documents. Long then had until Nov. 1 to rectify the situation, and was issued a court citation when she allegedly failed to do so.
Violators of the municipal ordinance governing certificates of occupancy can upon conviction receive as much as a year in county jail and fines of $1,000 a day for each day of the violation, said assistant city attorney Debbie Quinn. She handles municipal prosecutions.
But Long’s attorney, Richard Cummins of Aspen, told Aspen municipal Judge Brooke Peterson during a proceeding on Wednesday that the case is “much ado about nothing.”
His client is “making every effort to get the CO ... and the sprinkler system is in fact in,” Cummins said. “Plans have been stamped, and the point is, we are going to have a fully operational system in place within a matter of weeks.”
With the sprinkler system in place, “we don’t have to come back here and deal with this as a criminal matter [because] these folks are not criminals,” he said of Long and her partner.
Cummins said in an interview after Wednesday’s brief hearing that the installation of the sprinkler system in the home is the final hurdle to getting the CO. It’s been installed but the couple and their contractor are still awaiting a wireless detector, he said.
Cummins requested a continuance from Peterson, saying he had only taken the case in the past few days. Quinn objected to the request, noting that the community development department has been working with Long since Oct. 12.
“We want it to move forward,” she said.
Long and her partner are “going to get this resolved because they’re going to be totally compliant with this last aspect of getting their CO,” Cummins said.
Long is familiar with going to court over property issues. When she expanded her condo to a third floor in 2011, neighbors sued Long’s trust that owns the unit and the president of her homeowner’s association for blocking their views. The neighbors had the lawsuit dismissed a few months later because “the construction was pretty much up and the city was taking an uncooperative stance,” their attorney said.
She also lost an eviction lawsuit she filed against Obermeyer Place Holding Co. and the owners of the Ute City Plaza building, where she was evicted from in 2005. Long’s business, Main Street Quick Print, was temporarily relocated to 517 E. Hopkins Ave., which is owned by Dan Martineau and Dave Danforth, publisher and co-founder of the Aspen Daily News.
She made legal claims against 517 LLC, the building’s owner, contending that the unfit premises caused her printing business to declare bankruptcy and go out of business, according to court documents. A judge ruled the claims were “wholly without any supporting evidence anywhere.”
On Wednesday, Cummins said his client’s conduct was not criminal. He acknowledged the community development department is “trying to do their job and make sure the place is safe.
“But the vehicle for their impatience shouldn’t be that of a criminal proceeding,” Cummins said.
Quinn said the dates involved in the alleged violations, and potential penalties, must be determined at trial.
“It’s a violation now” in the city’s eyes, she said of Long’s residency.
Long must enter a plea next week, Peterson ruled.