This Property Is Condemned

The EPA messes with a widow over a Commerce City warehouse and winds up making its own mess.

"So the lawyer tells him he has one more chance and sends the second deed. Which also is lost."

With the tax bills piling up and no deeds left to squander, the EPA called Cowan and asked a favor: Would Elizabeth Matteson be willing to sign a new deed? That's when Cowan got cagey.

"I told him, 'I've gotten a hundred calls on this already. If we do another deed, Mrs. Matteson has to show up for the new closing. There's going to be new filing fees, and so on.' I said to him, 'We're going to need to be compensated.'"

The EPA then claimed to have found the lost deed and to have filed it with the assessor's office.

In the meantime, the EPA in late 1994 designated Matteson's warehouse as one of three areas in Commerce City that are part of the agency's showcase "brownfields" projects, in which the EPA encourages businesses to buy and develop land once designated as toxic by promising not to hold the owners liable for any old environmental problems that crop up.

Today, two of the Commerce City brownfields properties are progressing nicely, but one--the Sand Creek industrial site, which contains Mrs. Matteson's warehouse--is on indefinite hold. "Apparently," says a disgusted Tom Pike, the EPA's Sand Creek project director, "there's been some mixup over the deed."

Mrs. Matteson's revenge.
Despite the EPA's claim to have recovered the property deed, as of last week, according to the Adams County Assessor's office, the warehouse at 5355 Dahlia was still owned by a Mrs. Matteson. And that's only the beginning of the mess.

The assessor's records also show that the delinquent property-tax liens for the 1992 and 1993 tax years were purchased by Alvin Werth of Henderson, who, after three years--on October 7, 1996--will become eligible to foreclose on the warehouse. Even more confusing, the 1994 delinquent taxes on the warehouse were purchased at a tax lien sale by yet another party, Marla Radetsky.

Debbie Waltemath, who works in the Adams County Treasurer's office, says she understands there is a dispute over the ownership of the property, with the EPA claiming rights. But, she points out, the law applies to everyone.

"You've got to file those deeds on time," she says. "Even if you're the

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