Delay rebuilding ﬁre-ravaged condos sparks legal battle
By Alexei Rubenstein
04 January 2017
MONTPELIER, Vt. - The early morning fire in building number three at
Mountainside condos at Sugarbush three years ago is considered one of
the largest fires of its kind in the state.
"So we just said evacuate and started pounding on doors and got
everybody out of the building," condo owner Marie Freeman said in
The cause—a fireplace malfunction. While there were no injuries and
buildings number one and two were untouched, 36 units were destroyed.
Now, three years later, an empty lot remains where the condos stood and there are still no immediate plans to rebuild.
For Don and Mary Newey, a Connecticut couple who lost their condo in the fire, the long wait and lost money are exasperating.
You're still paying fees, you're still paying your mortgage
"You're still paying fees, you're still paying your mortgage, you don't
have any rental income and you don't have the ties to here. You have to
get a motel every time you come up, so it's definitely not the same,"
Mary Newey said.
Wednesday, the Neweys and other displaced condo owners took their own
condo association to court over the delays in rebuilding. The owners
claim the association is obligated to rebuild but mismanaged and
intentionally delayed the effort.
board didn't procure enough insurance... all the members of the association have to chip in for that shortfall
"The board didn't procure enough insurance to cover all of the expense
of reconstruction. All the members of the association have to chip in
for that shortfall," said Chris Roy, the lawyer for the condo owners.
"Also, that means building one and two have unit owners who are going
to have to chip in for the cost of reconstructing building three, so
that's the tension that's going on here."
all must pay the same amount, something many are reluctant to do
That means association members, whether they get to live in a new
replacement condo or the old buildings built back in the 1970s, must
pay the same amount, something many are reluctant to do. Association
members only narrowly approved a special assessment fee this fall.
Lawyers for the condo association argue they have had to deal with Act
250 permit delays and other complications, but are working as fast as
"The board has an obligation to rebuild the building. That's what the
bylaws require. But it also has an obligation to the entire membership
not to sock them with such a huge bill that it's unaffordable for
folks," said Bob DiPalma, the lawyer for the condo owners association.
Many of the ski condos around the region, like Mountainside, were built
in the '70s and early '80s, raising the larger issue of adequate
insurance coverage and fire safety precautions.
Sugarbush Resort is not affiliated with the condo association.
The aggrieved condo owners are hoping the judge will order a
court-appointed master to speed up construction. But even if that
works, there would still be an additional trial to recover the condo
fees, lost income and other expenses they've incurred since the fire.