HARRODSBURG — After seven years of acrimony, police calls, lawsuits and untold legal bills, it appears peace will soon be coming to the neighborhood around Aspen Hall.
The controversial bed and breakfast and weekend party place hosted an estate sale this weekend, selling everything from kitchen equipment to furniture to personal items.
Aspen Hall owner Andrew Romero confirmed Friday that his family was pulling up stakes before his wife, Julie Romero, said they would have no comment on their impending departure.
Curry and Leslie Dedman, neighbors who have battled against Aspen Hall since the Romeros purchased the historic residence in 2005, also declined to talk about its closing.
“I don’t want to say anything about it that’s going to be in the newspaper,” Curry Dedman said Friday. “That way, when it sits vacant for five years and falls apart, no one will be able to blame me.”
It appears financial difficulties are at least partially to blame for the demise of Aspen Hall, located just off Beaumont Avenue in a densely populated residential neighborhood.
The Bank of New York Mellon filed a lawsuit May 4 in Mercer Circuit Court seeking foreclosure and forced sale of the property, alleging that the Romeros defaulted on their note. The lawsuit states the Romeros, who moved to Harrodsburg from California, owe $471,305 and apparently have not made a payment since August of last year.
The Romeros have 20 days to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit but had not done so as of Friday.
Court records show that the Romeros took out a loan for $504,000 from Countrywide Home Loans in order to buy Aspen Hall in March 2005. The Bank of New York Mellon acquired the mortgage in February of this year, records indicate. Countrywide is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The bank also asks the court to declare that it holds the “valid first lien” on the property, meaning it wants to be first in line among creditors to collect it’s debt if a judicial sale is ordered.
Aspen Hall has been controversial from the beginning. Even though it is located in a residential area, planning and zoning officials approved it as a bed and breakfast and tea room. The Romeros asked for — and were granted — additional uses to be allowed to accommodate weddings and other private gatherings at Aspen Hall on weekends. When the Dedmans and others started complaining the events were too loud and unruly, creating traffic problems in their quiet neighborhood, city and P&Z officials tried to place restrictions on the business.
The Romeros then sued the city and won in the state Court of Appeals, which ruled uses already granted to Aspen Hall could not be taken back. With that victory the Romeros continued to host weekend events and city officials backed off, despite continuing complaints.
The Dedmans then sued city officials in federal court, arguing the city had adopted a strategy of “conscious indifference” in dealing with complaints about Aspen Hall, ignoring hundreds of violations of state and local laws and ordinances. By turning a blind eye to the activities at the hall, the city was violating the Dedmans’ civil rights and denying their pursuit of happiness, the lawsuit argued.
U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester in Lexington dismissed the complaint, saying it did not rise it to federal jurisdiction and was filed after the statute of limitations had expired, but he had some pointed words for city officials.
“The plaintiffs have every reason to be furious with the City of Harrodsburg and its police department,” the judge wrote. “It is inconceivable to this court that public officials could be so callous and indifferent to the needs of their citizens. The court has difficulty fathoming any legitimate excuse for the police repeatedly failing to enforce state and local laws and making these plaintiffs and their neighbors miserable in their own homes.”
In a story published in The Advocate-Messenger in 2010, the Dedmans said they had lost friends and been “ostracized” by the community over to their relentless effort to have Aspen Hall shut down.
“People say, ‘Those damn neighbors. Why don’t they just let it go?’ Well, I’m not going to let it go,” Curry Dedman said in the article. “I’m grasping at straws right now, but I’m not going to let it go. Aspen Hall is above the law. They can do anything they want, whenever they want, and we are like prisoners in our own home. How is that fair?”