Responding to Cottonwood

To our readers:

In response to the recent article entitled “Cottonwood Creek Estates – Growing Pains for Affordable Housing,” the owner of that development, Kurt Lochmiller, wrote a lengthy letter outlining his objections to various claims made in the story. Primary among them: that he was not given a chance to respond to particular complaints made by ex-tenants. In the interest of fairness, we are now printing his major points, with additional comments by the reporter, Judy Muller.

Dear Mr. Lochmiller:

In response to your letter in which you complained that you were not given a chance to respond to particular tenant complaints (i.e. Fornash and Stewart), SJ Independent is publishing your version of those incidents, at least in part. Readers should refer to the original article for context.

The first case involves former tenant Christy Fornash, who asked to break her lease because her mother, who lives with her, had to move to a lower elevation for health reasons. Fornash did say, on the record, that you eventually agreed to waive the lease and payments, and that you offered her housing in the Denver area. She said she turned it down because she did not want to give up her pets, which was a requirement. That information was in our article.

Your response: “We offered her a unit at another property that we own in Aurora (straight across the street from the hospital she told you her mother needed to go to)…. Unfortunately, this property does not allow pets and Christy refused to give up her dog and cat. I guess keeping her pets was more important than the health of her mother and the education of her child.”

In the article, Fornash is quoted as saying that it was the delays in coming to an agreement that led to the loss of alternate housing that she had found, which led to living in hotels for the year, thus draining her resources.

Your response (in part): “Because she moved out of Cottonwood only nine months ago, the timeline she provided to you (of being in a hotel for a year) was inconsistent…..The facts show that we gave her multiple opportunities to stay and worked with her by giving her several extensions and free rent. We are disappointed to see her name appear in your article providing such false information.”

Also quoted in the article was former tenant Sheila Stewart, who complained that her son was given an eviction notice because he was a day late with his rent.

Your response: “If you had asked us about Sheila’s son or Colorado Eviction Law, you would know that we did not and cannot evict anyone…after one day of non-payment. Please see the attached letter that …we posted on her son’s door in October. The letter made clear that he would be able to stay if he paid on time and complied with the items mentioned.”

That letter accused Stewart’s son of having an unauthorized guest and pet in the home and that “ we have also received reports of verbal disputes in your driveway, as well as rumors…of possession and distribution of marijuana and growing of marijuana in your home. Furthermore, your garage door has damage due to your negligence and is still in need of repair. We at Cottonwood Creek Estates are putting you on a 30 day probation period.”

You add, in your response: “The court granted us possession of his unit and we are owed $2919…in rent and severe damage to the unit, none of which he has paid.”

You also took issue with some other statements in the article, including this:

Since Kurtex has taken over, seven more tenants have been evicted, most for failure to pay their rents on time.”

You maintain, in your letter to us, that Kurtex has only evicted one tenant since its takeover.

In replaying the tape of the interview, however, not only did Cary Walko, the CEO of Kurtex, confirm that number of 7 evictions, but you then immediately added, “Most of the people get evicted because of non-payment. I mean, we’ve never taken anyone out because we say ‘ We don’t like you, we’re going to throw you out.’ We’ve given them rules and guidelines. They’re like children. Whereas you raise a child with no rules and guidelines and all of a sudden you say here’s rules and guidelines, it affects everybody else. They don’t want to do it.”

That quote did not appear in the article.

You also take issue with the phrase indicating that rents were “abruptly” increased. You’re right. The word “abruptly” could be misleading. A few months’ notice is not generally considered “abrupt.”


Judy Muller


Related story: Cottonwood Creek Estates – Growing Pains for Affordable Housing