Razor wire fence and court date

Chris Cote's fence at 1515 Welburn Ave. Cote was cited for a

The barbed wire is gone from the fence surrounding the home of
controversial developer Chris Cote, but the legal battle with the
city of Gilroy continues.
The barbed wire is gone from the fence surrounding the home of controversial developer Chris Cote, but the legal battle with the city of Gilroy continues.

Cote erected the 9-foot chain link barrier after being beaten inside his westside Gilroy home on a hill off of Welburn Avenue two years ago.

He’s on his third appeal now, according to City Attorney Linda Callon, trying to fight off the city’s order – spawned by neighbor complaints – to take down the barbed wire and the razor wire which topped the fence and to get a permit for it being taller than city code allows.

“It looked like a prison,” said a neighbor who asked not to be identified. He sympathized with Cote’s fear, but said he was concerned the value of the surrounding properties would go down because the fence created a sense of danger in what is normally a safe neighborhood.

Cote recently took down the barbed and razor wire. After losing an appeal to the city and a court appeal, the city was considering abatement – declaring the fence a public nuisance and removing it if necessary.

“Mr. Cote maintains the fence was installed primarily due to an attack he suffered from unknown assailants … He continues to insist that the fence is necessary in its current configuration since the assailants were never identified or apprehended,” according to a city staff report in the Oct. 18 City Council packet.

Cote has also applied for a fence permit, according to Development Center Manager Kristi Abrams. Meanwhile, he’s pursing a third appeal in court. Cote declined to comment.

Two years ago, three unknown men broke into Cote’s 1515 Welburn Ave. home while he slept, duct-taped his hands and ankles and then beat him with hammers and two-by-fours, according to police. The 20-minute attack, just after 2 a.m. June 10, 2009, left Cote with shattered legs, blood clots and a cracked skull with bone fragments stuck in his brain.

The attack came on the heels of a controversial housing development which ran into financial and legal trouble.

Cote was sued in two separate civil cases alleging he owed more than $1 million to contractors working on his solar home project at the corner of Hanna Street and Gurries Drive in 2008. Hollister-based general contractor Al Valles sued Cote in February 2008 on behalf of the unpaid sub-contractors he hired. In the suit, Valles claimed Cote laundered his construction loan through a maze of “sham corporations.” Cote and his lawyer dismissed this and claimed his attackers destroyed the physical records of those companies during the attack on Cote. United American Bank, which loaned Cote $3.9 million to build the solar homes, foreclosed on the properties.

More than two years later, the city may consider placing a lien on Cote’s property to recover the $5,085 incurred in legal fees, Abrams said. City Finance Director Christina Turner said city staff fees have not been tracked.

Attorney Callon of Berliner Cohen confirmed that Cote has still not dismissed his third and latest appeal filed with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Jose.

The City Council delayed making a decision on whether to seek a lien on Cote’s property in October when Cote said he couldn’t attend the meeting.

“We are also looking into what we can do to recover costs on the Cote abatement right now,” Abrams said. After all the legal and staff costs are tallied, Cote will be billed for the full cost of recovery and given 90 days to pay. If he doesn’t pay, she will recommend the City Council instruct staff to place a lien on the property. The city can also contract a collections agency to recover the money spent on Cote’s fence, but that would not be as cost effective, said Abrams, because it would mean paying the agency.

Cote’s gated home is in what is known as the Welburn Hill area, a cul-de-sac at the end of a narrow, steep, road, overlooking Gilroy. It’s surrounded by five other high-end houses, well away from the traffic-bearing portion of Welburn Avenue. A few broken pieces of razor wire hang on dry, overgrown branches that jut through the entrance gate of his home.

No suspects have been identified or arrested for the beating of Cote according to Sgt. Jim Gillio of the Gilroy Police Department.

The city issued a $100 administrative citation in March 2009, giving Cote 60 days to get the necessary permits, but instead of paying the permit and citation, Cote appealed.

The first time was at city level, then at the Santa Clara County Superior Court – where he delayed the hearing three times. He was unsuccessful in both attempts. Callon said the city is still entitled to collect the administrative citation and the late fees, which are 10 percent every month.

Cote also sued his former real estate agent and Gilroy Unified School District trustee Denise Apuzzo for $3,000 in November 2009 in connection with the failed project. A few months later, the judge ordered Apuzzo to pay him about $1,400 for money he lent her to cover a real estate class and an airline ticket, but the judge declined to tack on Cote’s additional claims for obscure PG&E bills and doctor’s visits.

Apuzzo said it all came out of left field at first but started to make more sense once she realized her initial open house in an unfinished home occurred the day after Al Valles filed a mechanic’s lien against Cote, who claimed he had already sold some of the units to police officers even though the city had yet to approve the work. Four months later, on June 10 2008, Cote was attacked.

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