Cordillera quar­rel

Res­i­dents sue to up­end plan to con­vert lodge to drug treat­ment site

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

Res­i­dents of the lux­ury Cordillera com­mu­nity near Vail have sued the own­ers of the vil­lage’s cen­ter­piece lodge, ar­gu­ing the plan to sell the tony fa­cil­ity to a drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter has cost prop­erty own­ers $100 mil­lion in real es­tate value.

The law­suit tar­gets Robert Behringer, whose Texas-based Behringer Har­vard in­vest­ment firm is un­der con­tract to sell the 56-room Lodge & Spa at Cordillera and its sur­round­ing acreage to the Con­sumer Care Group, a Bal­ti­more com­pany that wants to con­vert the lodge cam­pus to a high-end, in­pa­tient drug ad­dic­tion treat­ment fa­cil­ity. The suit ar­gues that Behringer and his team lied when they pur­sued a 2009 mod­i­fi­ca­tion to Cordillera’s Planned Unit De­vel­op­ment Guide, which de­tailed 34 po­ten­tial uses of the lodge and so-called Vil­lage Cen­ter land, in­clud­ing of­fice space, ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties, an am­phithe­ater and med­i­cal of­fices.

The law­suit, filed Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in Den­ver, seeks class ac­tion sta­tus for at least 100 Cordillera prop­erty own­ers.

In 2009, the Ea­gle County Com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved the Behringer Har­vard mod­i­fi­ca­tion, say­ing it “does not pro­pose any new or ad­di­tional uses within the Cordillera PUD.”

“On one hand, Behringer Har­vard says there are not any changes and no ad­di­tional uses and the com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove their re­quest and now the com­mis­sion­ers say, well, un­der that 2009 amend­ment this treat­ment cen­ter is a per­mis­si­ble use even though un­der the pre­vi­ous 2003 PUD, it would never have been al­lowed,” said Russ Sch­meiser, a named plain­tiff in the law­suit who bought his fam­ily mem­ber­ships to the lodge and club­house be­fore he bought a

home ad­ja­cent to the lodge in 2014. “That is not right.”

Behringer Har­vard in May reached a deal to sell the lodge to Con­sumer Care Group, which an­nounced plans to re­place the lodge with a res­i­den­tial drug ad­dic­tion treat­ment and well­ness cen­ter that will cost pa­tients as much as $65,000 a month. The lodge would be closed to any­one who isn’t a pa­tient, in­clud­ing Cordillera res­i­dents.

Con­sumer Care Group CEO Noah Nord­heimer said the law­suit will not de­lay the com­pany’s $85 mil­lion plan to buy and con­vert the lodge into an 80-room treat­ment cen­ter. Although the sale has not yet closed, he said he plans to shut down the lodge on Feb. 28.

“This project is not slow­ing down for friv­o­lous law­suits,” he said.

Sam Mamet, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colorado Mu­nic­i­pal League, said these com­mu­nity fights are not un­com­mon in Colorado. Neigh­bors rarely wel­come methadone clin­ics or group homes or drug treat­ment cen­ters. Ap­provals for sub­stance abuse fa­cil­i­ties of­ten ad­dress prop­erty rights, Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act is­sues and the grow­ing need for treat­ment cen­ters as the na­tion en­dures what he said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment calls an un­prece­dented opi­oid epi­demic.

“It’s a very se­ri­ous prob­lem and it’s a very com­plex prob­lem,” Mamet said. “I know this has been an is­sue that com­mu­ni­ties across the state have dealt with for years.”

The law­suit claims the de­ci­sion to con­vert the lodge to a pri­vate fa­cil­ity “has de­layed pur­chases and sales of prop­erty in the Cordillera com­mu­nity and de­pressed prop­erty val­ues in Cordillera by a cu­mu­la­tive amount ex­ceed­ing $100 mil­lion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Ea­gle County MLS there were five homes sales in Cordillera be­tween Jan­uary and April, be­fore Nord­heimer went un­der con­tract to buy the lodge. Those sales av­er­aged $312.72 per square foot. From May through Novem­ber there were 29 sales with an av­er­age price-per-square foot of $325.97.

The Cordillera Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and the Cordillera Metropolitan District last month filed ju­di­cial ap­peals in Ea­gle County District Court ask­ing a judge to over­turn the coun­ty­commis­sion ap­proval of the treat­ment cen­ter.

The U.S. District Court claim is ask­ing the court to re­quire res­i­dent ap­proval of the lodge plan, award dam­ages for de­clines in prop­erty val­ues, and to over­turn the 2009 Ea­gle County PUD amend­ment.

Ea­gle County’s 2017 Com­mu­nity Health Im­prove­ment Plan cites in­creased men­tal health and sub­stance abuse treat­ment ser­vices as a pri­or­ity, but the plan for the lodge at Cordillera likely will be out of reach for most res­i­dents of Ea­gle County, where per capita in­come is less than $40,000.

Nord­heimer said he will di­rect $1,000 for each pa­tient at the Cordillera fa­cil­ity to­ward Ea­gle County’s detox and sub­stance abuse pro­grams. The county’s detox cen­ter closed in Oc­to­ber due to fund­ing strug­gles.

In a writ­ten state­ment, Nord­heimer of­fered a quote from treat­ment ad­vo­cate Tom McLel­lan, who served as Pres­i­dent Obama’s deputy di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Na­tional Drug Con­trol Pol­icy.

“Ad­dic­tion treat­ment can be ex­tremely ef­fec­tive with re­cov­ery now an ex­pectable out­come,” McLel­lan’s state­ment said. “Given these facts surely no truly civic-minded com­mu­nity would try to pre­vent care from be­ing avail­able for its af­fected cit­i­zens.”

Nord­heimer, who strug­gled with pain pill ad­dic­tion af­ter a back surgery, said there is in­creas­ing de­mand for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as the num­ber of opi­oid deaths across the coun­try reach record lev­els. He hopes to em­ploy 100 work­ers at his fa­cil­ity and ear­lier this year sent two of his ad­dic­tion treat­ment clin­i­cians to Ea­gle County to train first re­spon­ders on ad­dress­ing sub­stance abuse prob­lems.

“We are com­mit­ted to help­ing as many peo­ple as we can,” he said. “We are hope­ful (Cordillera res­i­dents) will be­gin to work with us in­stead of against us, but ei­ther way we are mov­ing for­ward.”

Blevins, The Den­ver Post

Con­sumer Care Group CEO Noah Nord­heimer said the law­suit will not de­lay the com­pany’s $85 mil­lion plan to buy and con­vert the lodge into an 80-room treat­ment cen­ter. Ja­son

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