A municipal judge won't financially penalize the owner of Thornton Shopping Center for 76 city code violations. Judge Charles Rose's decision was a major development in an ongoing controversy about …
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A municipal judge won't financially penalize the owner of Thornton Shopping Center for 76 city code violations.
Judge Charles Rose's decision was a major development in an ongoing controversy about the primarily unoccupied plaza on the south side of town. The judge said it would be counterproductive to fine property owner Jay Brown because it would make it harder to afford necessary repairs.
“If I impose fines at this point, that ain't going to change anything,” Rose said at the sentencing hearing in the City of Thornton v. Thornton, LLC and Jay Brown Jan. 20. “I don't believe that the citizens and neighbors of that property sincerely just want the property to remain in a state of disrepair,” the judge added.
In December, Brown and his company, Thornton, LLC. plead guilty in municipal court to 76 city code violations, including soffit, or architectural, disrepair and walkway damage. Asbestos is also prevalent in buildings.
The structural or aesthetic violations is one half of a larger controversy over Brown's management of the property. Decades ago, the dry-cleaning chemical perchloroethylene, or PERC, seeped from the property to its subsurface and into groundwater. That happened before Brown purchased the property 15 years ago, according to a city web page. However, when Brown purchased the property, he didn't conduct, “environmental due diligence,” the city's web page states.
Ever since then, nearby residents have complained about the PERC contamination and code violations. Meanwhile, the city and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have taken action against Brown to fix the problems in a timely fashion. Developers have wanted to redevelop the site but cannot until everything is cleaned up.
Last February, the city notified Brown of dozens of code violations and took him to court when he didn't address them in time. Then, in October, CDPHE filed a lawsuit against Brown in the Adams County District Court for the contamination. The CDPHE suit triggered an injunction ordering Brown to remediate groundwater contamination in 2021.
At the Jan. 20 sentencing hearing in municipal court, Brown and his attorney, Kenneth Skogg, updated the court on aesthetic and structural repairs. An on-site manager is already working on minor issues. Roof and soffit repairs will finish by the end of April and concrete repairs by the end of May. The major undertaking will be asbestos abatement and demolition, the timeline for which is unclear. For that, Brown needs to obtain permits for the demolition, Skogg explained.
To help pay for the work ahead, Brown recently sold the parcel containing a Wendy's restaurant, just east of Washington Street. He still is working on securing funds to cover soffit and concrete repairs.
All this is evidence of Brown's “good faith” efforts, Skogg said. The attorney spoke against “emotional pleas and contentions that, in fact, Mr. Brown or Thornton, LLC don't care. That they're not paying attention. It's not the case.”
“Imposing substantial penalties, financial penalties will not, as you noted in your comments, get the buildings repaired and get the property back into code compliance,” Skogg added.
Brown offered his own comments at the sentencing hearing.
“I was beaten up quite a bit by the neighbors and I understand their frustration and their anger and their concerns. As long as I have managed this property, I have never ignored it,” he said.
Though Rose ultimately decided against harsher penalties, the judge allowed others to speak their peace.
Resident Seamus Blaney said, “Fine this guy, clip his wings, slap his wrists because he has ignored every other avenue that we have gone down … I'd like to show him how PO'd we are, ultimately, in the community. How the city is tired of jumping through hoops.”
Rose ordered a review hearing in April or May for a status update on the repairs. If the repairs aren't progressing on schedule, Rose said he is willing to reconsider fining Brown.
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