Kiowa duplex project resurfaces with unpermitted residency

       For neighbors who have fought a duplex project in the 3300 block of West Kiowa St., it's a resumption of past indignities. For local government officials, the fact that property owners rented out one of the units before they had a legal right to do so is a paperwork matter for which they will reportedly face no penalty, monetary or otherwise.

The multi-level duplex with the addresses of 3325 (far side) and 3329 W. Kiowa St. can be seen with its neighboring red rock formation in the background. The project plat (grandfathered from the late 1800s) would allow four more duplexes like this one, plus a house that would fit in next to the rocks.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The laws in question involve what's called a “certificate of occupancy” (CO). Under city codes, living in a new unit is not allowed until the Regional Building Department has issued a CO or even a temporary CO (TCO), which is good for 30 days.
       According to a neighbor, Richard White, people have been renting 3325 W. Kiowa for about three weeks. Such residency was confirmed this week by the Westside Pioneer, in talking to one of the tenants.
       Until Dec. 8, when the Pioneer brought the matter before officials from City Engineering and Regional Building (which are separate government entities), a CO or TCO had not been issued for either duplex address (3325 or 3329). Contacted Dec. 8, Frank Atchison, senior building inspector for Regional, said he was unaware of anyone living there. After a day's review, he told the Pioneer that a TCO will be granted because an inspection as recently as Nov. 29 had found no safety issues within the duplex units. Asked if a fine or other penalty would be imposed on the property owners for not following the CO requirements, he said he saw no reason to do so because such paperwork gaps can happen from time to time on developments.
       “I've got people living in a place without any safety issues, so I'm not losing any sleep over it,” Atchison summarized. “I'm not throwing anybody out in the cold.”
       Originally planned for 11 units (a house and five duplexes) by owners Rick and Pat Shannon, the West Kiowa project has produced just the one duplex since work started about three years ago. Along the way, there have been steady neighborhood complaints about the developer (Shada Enterprises). An initial, core issue was the property's ancient plat, legally grandfathered from the 19th century, which allows smaller lots and taller buildings than typical for the older neighborhood around it. The plat also was interpreted to allow graders to scrape away the lower part of a red rock formation to wedge in one of the units - even though the property is in a hillside overlay zone. In 2007, the city issued a stop-work order on the lot nearest the formation when it was determined that the developer had been grading it without a permit.
       The only thing holding up a permanent CO, Atchison intially explained, was lack of a sign-off from City Engineering. The issue there, according to Steve Kuehster of Engineering, was Shada having failed to install a safety handrail on a retaining wall he'd built along the alley south of the duplex, in keeping with a plan worked out over a year ago with the city and the neighbors.
       (White, whose house abuts the alley on its south side, offered the correction that in addition to the handrail the alley-wall plan requires the developer to raise part of a previously existing wall by a foot and a half.)
       (The developer had been required to do the wall work because the residents eventually will use the alley to access individual garages underneath the duplex buildings, according to previous city information.)
       After being contacted by the Westside Pioneer Dec. 9, Kuehster said he talked to the builder, Jeff Shada, who told him he has someone working on the TCO and CO issues.
       A separate Westside Pioneer call to Shada Dec. 9, asking why the units had been rented without an occupancy permit, had not been returned at presstime that night. The Pioneer also attempted to reach the Shannons, but an automated message said the number had been temporarily disconnected (possibly meaning they are out of town), Kuehster said).
       Regarding the wall, Kuehster said he believes that the missing handrail does not pose a safety threat to the duplex residents. As a result, he sees no reason for Engineering to stand in the way of Regional's issuing a permanent CO. However, apprised by White of a 4-year-old in the neighborhood who reportedly likes to walk on top of the wall, he said he will try to see that the handrail is installed “sooner than later.” All that Engineering needs from the builder, Kuehster said, is a “reasonable schedule to get the thing built,” along with “financial assurances” to protect the city in the event of a default of some kind. The end result, he said, allows the residents to legally occupy the space, the owners to collect rent and the city to get the handrail built.
       White said he would like to see the schedule when it's finalized- “what he [Shada] has to do and how long.” He added a concern that the builder may have financial issues that could impact his ability to do the work.
       Overall, after three years of fighting the project, White described it as “a crooked deal” that “goes completely against the hillside ordinance.”
       In a separate interview, the Pioneer contacted real estate agent Tony Lorenc of Remax Properties, who said the two units in the duplex - once promoted for their cutting-edge amenities (including jetted tubs, gas fireplaces and a common elevator in a multi-level setting) - are no longer listed for sale. The 3325 unit had been listed from April 25 to Nov. 26 for $369,900, while the 3329 unit was on the market at $492,800 for 200 days, with the listing terminating Jan. 1 of this year, Lorenc reported.

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