In the last issue of the Tribune a Jefferson Park homeowner complained he was the victim of “anti-development” politics and “hostile historic designation.”  Nothing can be further from the truth.

Those of us who live in North Denver and especially Jefferson Park have stated our Save the Anderson House campaign goals to be: 1. The homeowner should receive current, fair market value for his property. 2. The Anderson House at 2329 North Eliot merits Historic Designation for the community and generations to come. At this point we have in excess of 300 signed supporters who share our goals.  The campaign is just beginning.

James Sonnleitner appears to be a victim of an aggressive developer who blankets North Denver with scare letters saying “developers won’t be paying what they did 6-8 months ago”, laying blame on government agencies, historic designations and anti-development activists. In an earlier letter the developer even promised to give you “cash within 48 hours, even without closing… .” Some developers appear to think of Denver as “an open-pit coal mine” to be exploited while they take their riches to the suburbs.

Mr. Sonnleitner, property owner of 2329 Eliot Street, has been reported to have a contract with Adams Development, LLC for $1,000,000 for three parcels.  The developer is only interested in the raw land for construction of 18 townhomes to be sold at $500,000 plus. Adams Development will demolish the historic 1886 Queen Anne home of Denver attorney William W. Anderson.

The developer appears to have offered to purchase Mr. Sonnleitner’s property based on Denver Assessor estimates of “Actual Value”.  The Assessor places the “Actual Value” for 2329 Eliot at $425,800 and 2331 Eliot at $299,800 plus the Carriage Lot.  At the behest of the developer and request of the property owner the City Council recently vacated the alley surrounding Carriage Lot 37.  Based on land area Comparables, the Actual Value of the Carriage Lot by action of City Council went from $37,000 to an estimated $300,000.  So the Assessor’s Actual Values total $725,600 plus $300,000 for the Carriage Lot, totaling approximately $1,000,000. This just happens to be the reported contract price for Mr. Sonnleitner’s land.

Unethical developers will represent Assessor Actual Values to be Market Values or Prices, which they are not.  Compounding this misrepresentation is the fact that Assessor Actual Values are based on old sales data which are 18 to 24 months or longer out of date. Test this yourself by going to http://www.denvergov.org/ . Then “Search Property Information” on the right column. Follow the prompts and you will see “Comparable” sales for your property are all from 2012, 2013 and 2014. In closer examination you will see that there are no “Comps” after June 30, 2014 meaning the Actual Values do not include last year’s run-up in home prices. Denver home prices rose 10% between July 2014 and July 2015. So if your developer used Assessor Actual Values you lose out on that gain as well as being low-balled by Assessor Actual Values.

We do not believe the property owner is receiving current fair market value for his property. Here’s why. The Queen Anne at 2329 is a large intact brick structure (2,243 s.f. home sitting on a 8,400 s.f. lot). It was recently valued by a real estate broker to be worth $570,000. The two lots with inflation are estimated to be valued at $700,000 bringing the total current Market Value to $1,270,000 or 27% more than the reported contract price. Thus, Mr. Sonnleitner would be much better off financially by keeping or selling the Queen Anne and allowing development on the remaining 75% of his property. Obviously we are not party to the contract, we can only offer our advice.

How do you avoid being taken? Three experts offer this advice: A former colleague of mine at HUD who has been appraising residential real estate for 20 years suggested asking for estimates of market price from three respected real estate brokers. A highly ethical real estate broker in Jefferson Park advised “Get yourself reputable, full-service representation by a Realtor who works in the business full-time…and not by the developer at your door.” A highly respected housing developer said “There are some great brokers who would represent property owners very well.” He went on to say if the doctor says you need brain surgery, you get a 2nd opinion. Follow their advice, get estimates of fair market value from two or three real estate brokers.

The case for Historic Designation of the Anderson House will be made before Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission on Tuesday, October 6th at 1:00 p.m. in Room 4.F.6 in the Webb building. For information on the history of the Anderson House and our on-line petition, please visit:  https://saveandersonhouse.wordpress.com/.

Thank you,  Jerry Olson

(Published in the North Denver Tribune)

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