Colorado Springs landlord Douglas Bruce owns 12 properties in El Paso County. County Assessor John Bass says every one of Bruce's properties is in such disrepair that the adjacent properties have been devalued between 25 and 50 percent.
Bass said Bruce's name has nothing to do with the devaluations. Inspectors, he noted, must take into account the condition of surrounding properties when they are assessing values. And, when someone lives across the street from a boarded-up, burned-out building, their property values are going to be affected.
Bruce, who also has properties in Denver and Pueblo, has had plenty of well-documented run-ins with building and code inspectors. He has been cited for refusing to maintain his properties in Denver, Pueblo and El Paso County, and even was jailed for eight days in the mid-1990s for contempt of court in Denver when he disobeyed a judge's orders during a building code dispute.
Bruce routinely accuses building and code inspectors of singling him out, which Bass denies. "Our intent is not to get into personal or political viewpoints."
Bass said he routinely fields calls from angry property owners who complain about the impacts of Bruce's shabby structures on their own properties.
But, Bass said, there is nothing he can do.
"Typically, the frustration they express is, 'Why won't code enforcement or the Regional Building Department do something about this?' " Bass said. "I hate to pass the buck, but the assessors office has no enforcement ability."
Leslie Gruen, spokeswoman for the RBD, said the agency has not received any complaints about any of Bruce's properties for at least two years. The Regional Building Department, which is in charge of enforcing codes, three years ago attempted to force Bruce to repair his duplex at 1326 West Kiowa Street. Bruce bought the duplex after a fire ravaged the building and had claimed the life of a young boy. After numerous warnings and extensions of time given to Bruce to fix the unsafe structure, RBD obtained a notice to demolish the duplex. But Bruce got an injunction, and the duplex still stands, boarded up and in disrepair.
The following descriptions are taken from the assessor's 1999 inspection of Bruce's 11 other El Paso County properties:
4645 N. Carefree Circle -- Some deferred maintenance on outside, paint peeling. (An attached Gazette newspaper article notes that tenants at this property were evicted four days before Christmas in 1996, after having lived in the property without heat since Thanksgiving. "It's winter and it's freezing," said Bruce's former tenant.)
839 E. Las Animas St. -- Property was heavily damaged by fire on July 23, 1998. On March 10, 1999 house is still unsafe to occupy.
335 Ruskin Drive -- Downstairs units vacant with some windows boarded up. One unit upstairs occupied.
4025 Ruskin Way -- Building vacant. Some windows boarded up.
4502 Picturesque Circle -- Paint peeling, some deferred maintenance.
4506 Picturesque Circle -- Paint chipping and siding pulling away from building. Electric service hooked up to one apartment only.
633 E. Boulder St. -- Still a substandard structure. Only one unit appears rented. Two sets of stairs and some trim appear recently painted.
2107 Preuss Road -- Downstairs units posted unsafe to occupy. Both upstairs apartments have broken windows in the rear.
4545 Iron Horse Trail -- House in poor repair at time of purchase.
2707 E. Monument St. -- Unable to get close due to dog and fence.
1834 Zebulon Drive -- No market data yet.
-- Cara DeGette
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