Will the “Too Tall Townhomes” finally get knocked down to size?
Or just knocked down?
Or will they remain abandoned, inflicting financial and visual pain on the surrounding neighbors?
It’s been almost a year since questions over the size of three new buildings in the Dublin Terrace Townhomes complex erupted, even prompting Mayor Steve Bach to personally inspect the northeast Colorado Springs complex.
The controversy eventually resulted in the bankruptcy of the developer Todays Homes and its parent company, Unity Builders Group of Calgary, Canada. And it threw into limbo 10 units — seven in two buildings that are finished and furnished and ready for sale and three units in one building with no roof.
In January, city planners rejected a request from the court-appointed receiver to allow the buildings to remain, as-is, with additional landscaping to buffer the neighbors’ view.
Planner Rick O’Connor’s rejection set up a showdown on Feb. 21 when an appeal is to be heard before the Colorado Springs Planning Commission.
An attorney for the receiver, Andrew Checkley of MLP Receiverships in St. Louis, responded in documents that moving the buildings or demolishing them are not viable options for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, one of the nation’s largest banks, which owns the loans and is facing claims exceeding $1 million, including mechanic liens.
In the documents, the receiver continued a year-long debate over the height issue, arguing the city has wrongly assessed the height. The receiver insists the buildings are just four feet higher than allowed, not upwards of 11 feet as the city claims.
And Checkley raises the possibility that PNC might simply walk away, leaving the buildings to rot, unless the city agrees to let them stay.
“(PNC) has no obligation to foreclose or to take ownership of the property,” Checkley wrote. “This is the worst-case scenario for all parties involved. Unfortunately, given the finances of the project . . . and the competing demands of the interested parties, it may be the most likely scenario.”
Checkley warns that vacant and abandoned buildings erode property values, reduce the city tax base, anger neighbors and “may attract irresponsible social activity.”
Quite a scare tactic. It’s one voiced months ago by Todays Homes and now by Checkley and it has the attention of neighbors who are angry at the suggestion and fear being steamrolled by bureaucrats who don’t care about the neighbors.
“They don’t care about anybody but the bank,” said Bill Sheridan, whose single-family home on Whereabout Court, just across the fence, is dwarfed by the Too Talls.
Similar frustration is felt by Tom Fendon, who lives in a Dublin Terrace Townhome in one of the 56 units in about 15 completed and occupied buildings in the complex.
“It doesn’t get any better,” Fendon said. “It doesn’t look good as far as getting this taken care of. Meanwhile, all the people here are losing money as far as property values go.”
Of course, their positions reflect how hard this problem is to fix.
Sheridan is adamant the Too Talls must come down, insisting property values of the homes on his street all suffered when the behemoths went up.
Fendon, however, said its his neighbors in the other townhomes who are suffering the most.
“Most of us are under water,” he said. “This affects 51 townhome owners. We can’t sell because everything has stopped. There are only eight or nine homes across the fence affected by this.”
Deciding what happens next isn’t the only question Fendon wants answered. He still wants someone held accountable at City Hall.
“I walk through the community and ask myself the same question,” Fendon said. “Why was this allowed?