Denver homeowner fighting city's attempt to acquire historic home through foreclosure

City: It's a last ditch effort to preserve house

DENVER - What was once a gorgeous home sits in disrepair, the roof open to the elements.

The 104-year-old Bosler House at 3209 W. Fairview Place has been that way since 2009.

That’s when the city of Denver told the current owner, Keith Painter, to stop work.

Painter had been granted permits to do some roof and siding work on the historic structure.  The city says the work he was doing exceeded the scope of work authorized by the permits.

“He popped the top,” said Denver Community Planning and Development spokeswoman Andrea Burns. That was a no-no on a house that had been designated a landmark in 1984 -- three years before Painter purchased it.

Since then, Painter has been involved in a tiff with the city while the house deteriorates.

The city says it has asked Painter to restore the original roof profile.  He says he can’t do the work the city wants without doing more damage.

“In order to put a new roof on, under the pretense that they want right now, I have to violate Denver code and I’d have to make that unsafe,” he said. “That’s not acceptable.”

When asked why he left the roof open, Painter replied, “I would have loved to close it up, but almost every day, if not once a week, when I was over here trying to fix what I could to get it ready, a person from the city, including police officers, parked out in front of the building or parked right here, and would watch, making sure I didn’t put a tarp on it, making sure I didn’t do any kind of construction whatsoever.”

Painter told 7NEWS that at $90,000, the temporary roof the city wants done would cost more than an arm and a leg.

“Not only an arm and a leg but probably the first born of each of my daughters and probably something else, and that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Concerned neighbors believe Painter is intentionally letting the house deteriorate so it can be demolished and redeveloped.

They started a Facebook page (Save the Bosler House Now) to spur the city into action.

Now the city is attempting to acquire the property through foreclosure.

“Foreclosure is a last resort for us,” said Andrea Burns of the Denver Community Planning and Development office. “We’ve simply run out of options.  We’re going to try to protect the house, if we can, through foreclosure.”

Burns said that if something is not done soon, the house is at risk of becoming a total loss.

She said the city will assess the house to determine what condition it’s in, what needs to be repaired and how much it might cost.

She said a draft assessment is expected in August and a final assessment in October.

When asked if tax money will be used to repair the property, Burns said, “The city is paying for basic maintenance that's being done now -- grading and fencing.  We hope to recoup these costs through foreclosure or sale.”

In terms of major repairs, Burns said, “We hope that those will be done by a future owner.”

Painter told 7NEWS that his property rights are being ignored.

"I should be compensated,” he said.

He said the city should have assessed the property in 1984 (when it was designated a landmark) and determined the scope of work that was needed to repair and maintain the property.

Burns said the city has 331 “Landmark” properties and this is the only one with this issue.

Painter and his family look forward to his day in court.

“It’s very taxing emotionally,” said his daughter, Maura.  “It would have been very, very nice to have continued living there.”

She said their current house is much smaller and that her dad sleeps in the living room.

"He sacrificed for us," Maura said.

Painter questions why the Landmark Commission, Historic Denver or other preservation groups don’t offer to help.

“When there’s a flood or famine, we immediately send money. We immediately send people. We have great religious organizations doing this.  Why isn’t Historic Denver helping property owners like me?”

Burns said the city has tried working with Painter for six years but has gotten nowhere.

“If you’re going to buy a historic structure, you should be aware that there is a higher bar for preservation and maintenance of that property,” she said.

Timeline of Events

  • The Bosler House was constructed in 1875 and was designated as a local historic landmark for preservation by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission in 1984.
  • In 1984, the Bosler House was placed on the Naitonal Register of Historic Places.
  • On September 11, 2008, Defendant applied for and was granted a construction permit and roofing and siding permit from the city.  Four months later, the city issued a stop work order because work exceeded scope authorized by permits.
  • On February 2, 2009, Defendant submitted a Design Review Application as a result of the stop work order.
  • On February 17, 2009, the Landmark Preservation Commission held a hearing on the Design Review Application and voted unanimously to retain the original structure of the roof to its pre-alteration form.
  • In April 2010, Painter filed an application to fully demolish the house.  That application was rejected.
  • The city then filed a complaint in Denver District Court seeking to inspect and perform various repairs and maintenance to the Bosler House.  The request was granted by the court.
  • On December 6, 2010, Painter submitted an Application to demonstrate Economic Hardship to allow for demolition of the historic house.  The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted to deny the application.
  • In January 2011, Painter filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the Commission’s design review hearing.
  • In November of that year, his claims were either dismissed, due to the statute of limitations, or denied because the court found competent evidence to support the Commission’s decision.
  • Court granted the City’s injunction and authorized the City to utilize a contractor to dry in the roof of the Bosler House.  Defendant also ordered to comply with the 2009 order that the original roof profile of the Bosler House be retained to protect the historic character of the structure.
  • City lacked sufficient resources to perform the dry-in work, and the Defendant never complied with the court order to retain the original roof profile.  The structure has remained open to the elements.
  • On May 9, 2013, the City issued a notice of violation to Mr. Painter, citing the Bosler House as a vacant and boarded structure, and as a historic structure not maintained in accordance with the Denver Revised Municipal Code – Chapter 30.
  • The NOV ordered Mr. Painter to submit a remedial plan.  His plan proposed demolishing the structure.
  • The city rejected the remedial plan and set a “show cause” hearing for Dec. 5, 2013.  Mr. Painter failed to appear.
  • On Dec. 10, 2013, the administrative hearing officer issued an order upholding the NOV and assessment of $16,650 in fees and imposing civil penalties of $999/day retroactive to the May 9, 2013 Notice of Violation.
  • Pursuant to the order, the civil penalties continue to accrue until the property is brought into compliance or the penalties reach 110 percent of the property value.  Principal value of the civil penalties, fees and administrative citations that are liens against the Bosler House is $560,106.
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