Jarred awake from the American dream, quickly | ParkRecord.com
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Jarred awake from the American dream, quickly

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF
Christoper McKendry paid $96,000 for a unit in the Line Condominiums on Deer Valley Drive. He is excited to be a homeowner but says there are problems with his condominium. Other owners tell similar stories. Grayson West/Park Record
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Jennifer Franklin was jarred awake from the American Dream quickly after buying a home for the first time.

Franklin is among the people who purchased units in Mountainlands Community Housing Trust’s Line Condominiums on Deer Valley Drive and are now either frustrated or unhappy with their homes or with Mountainlands, a non-profit dedicated to providing housing options for people otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real-estate market.

Some say that the condominiums, one of Mountainlands’ most ambitious projects, are shoddily constructed. Since moving in, they claim, there have been numerous problems.

None of the issues that they describe appears to endanger the people living there but they are hassles nonetheless to the residents, some of whom waited more than two years to move in as construction at the site, on the 500 block of Deer Valley Drive, languished and prices went up.

"It hasn’t been the dream. It hasn’t been one of the more pleasurable experiences," says Franklin, a 33-year-old who works up to six jobs, including at the National Ability Center, and is a full-time graduate student.

At Franklin’s place, a one-bedroom that cost about $97,000, up almost 44 percent from the price she anticipated when she was one of the original signers in 2002, there are hairline cracks in her bedroom walls, the cabinets were hung crookedly and the dishwasher was not hooked up. Mountainlands sent a crew in to fix the cabinets and the dishwasher, she acknowledges, but the experience left her disappointed.

"I think, in the almost 10 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never been made to feel unwelcome in the community until the development of this project," Franklin says.

Others who bought units are also peeved with the condominiums while others say that they did not find problems when they moved in and they are happy with their homes.

Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands, meanwhile, says that he has not been approached with most of the problems and that the people who moved in were naive if they expected not to encounter some difficulties of owning a new condominium. He calls the issues "punch-list items" brought up by people who erroneously "think it should be perfect when they walk in."

Loomis says fix-it crews have been at the condominiums repairing leaks and a refrigerator door but he is unsure how many times the repairmen have been called.

"There’s nothing big with anybody," Loomis says.

At City Hall, which financially backed the project, Chief Building Official Ron Ivie says four or five of the people from the condominiums have contacted the Building Department with problems.

He says, through Thursday, the department had not received a formal complaint, though. Ivie labels the comments the department has fielded "cosmetic kinds of stuff" that do not break the building code.

"There’s no gold fixtures in there, let’s be clear about that. But are they adequate based on code requirements, I’d say ‘Yes,’" Ivie says.

A cold shower

The project entails 10 one-bedrooms, 10 two-bedrooms and two redone houses that were on the property when Mountainlands started construction. Seventeen are occupied, Loomis says, two others are sold and about six people have filed applications to purchase the remaining three.

People must qualify through their incomes and the project is restricted to buyers who do not earn more than 80 percent of the area’s median income, as set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Singles can earn up to $41,700, couples up to $47,700 and families of three and four up to $53,650 and $59,600, respectively, according to Phyliss Robinson, who directs City Hall’s housing program.

City Hall sees itself as one of the chief supporters of restricted affordable housing, arguing that the community is better off if people of varying means can afford to live locally.

That, the supporters say, provides diversity in Park City and ensures that people like police officers and firefighters can afford to live in Park City, where houses and condominiums regularly reach more than $1 million.

The Line Condominiums were priced at between $107,000 and $196,000, up from between $65,000 and $100,000 originally forecast. Some of the people who signed up originally received $5,000 grants and Mountainlands subsidized between $20,000 and $30,000 of the cost of some of the first units, according to Loomis. Zions Bank provided special loans to almost all of the people who purchased, he says.

Christopher McKendry, who is 28 years old, holds jobs at Wild Oats in Redstone and at Butcher’s, an Old Town steakhouse, earning enough to purchase a one-bedroom condominium in the Mountainlands project for $96,000.

He waited more than three years and while checking his place out a final time before moving in, he found small problems with fixtures and hinges. Mountainlands fixed them and the place was "all great and dandy," McKendry says.

But problems arose, he says, including chemicals leaking from pipes in a utility closet. The pipes are attached to a fire-sprinkler system, he says.

"I was expecting little things here and there to go wrong but not something serious like that," he says.

He also says that his neighbor’s gutter spills water into the vent of his shower’s fan, spraying rainwater inside when it rains. Mountainlands temporarily fixed the problem with plywood, McKendry says.

He remains excited to own a condominium but his worries persist. The driveway is poorly constructed and drains water into garages, for instance, McKendry says.

Adam Opalek, a real-estate agent and bartender, also has a list of problems in his condominium, a one-bedroom unit that cost him about $99,000, up from the $82,000 he planned to pay in early 2004. He says that the issues are not major and he considers himself "one of the more fortunate ones."

He says weather stripping was not installed on the front door when he moved in, the linoleum flooring in the kitchen and bathroom is warped and the unit was painted sloppily. Opalek says "it’s super-frustrating."

"You’re missing an outlet cover here, this wasn’t hooked up there," he says.

Franklin, one of the people with a one-bedroom, says a handyman at the condominiums was busy completing the unfinished units instead of doing maintenance work but recently started to fix people’s places.

"Instead of raising the bar, they’ve been tripping over it the last 3 1/2 years," she says.


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