A grassroots group opposing a proposed 147-unit apartment community in three buildings in the trendy West Highland neighborhood on Tuesday night decided to hold a rush hour rally next week near the development.
The rally is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29th at West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard to protest the RedPeak Development luxury apartment project just north of that intersection. The date will be changed if there is inclement weather in the forecast.
The rally came near the end of a community update meeting of the No High Rises in West Highland group, in the wake of the decision last Thursday by Councilwoman Susan Shepherd not to seek to downzone the land, where RedPeak is allowed to build five-story buildings.
Laura Goode, founder of the group, told the 80 or so people who filled a basement room in the Highland Church proposed to be part of the new development that she was “sad, angry, and indignant,” when she learned of Shepherd’s decision.
But she said they are not giving up the fight.
“We are not out of options,” she said. “Our options are limited. But we are not out of options. I don’t want you to leave this room without hope.”
However, she declined to name the group’s next move, although she said and other members have met with “very high-powered” real estate attorneys during the past eight weeks.
She said she can’t be open about the options because if RedPeak, Shepherd and others in the city got wind of their strategy, they could create “roadblocks” that could make it more difficult for the efforts to be successful.
That did not sit well with one member of the group, Thad Tecza.
Tecza, who has vocally opposed RedPeak’s plans at other meetings, said he doesn’t like secrecy in government and doesn’t like secrecy from this group. Other people, however, said it would be foolish to broadcast a legal strategy too early. One woman in the audience said she would help fund a lawsuit to stop the project.
“We have to keep our eye on the goal – we want to win the war here,” Goode said.
She said she expects to elaborate on the next step the group will take on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
The clock is ticking.
Trevor Greco, an engineer familiar with Denver’s building approval process, said RedPeak filed its first set of plans last week on the Lowell parcel. He said it typically takes six to eight weeks before the plans are administratively approved and RedPeak is able to receive building permits. Once that happens, RedPeak will likely buy the land from an investment group headed by Tom Wootten.
He estimated that by the end of March, RedPeak could get its building permits and at that point the group may be out of options to stop the development.
Earlier, there had been rumblings of possibly launching a citywide election to downzone the property. And another group is seeking landmark status for the church building to protect a portion of it from being razed.
Meanwhile, Richard Montoya, who has been investigating mounting a recall election against Shepherd, said that won’t be happening in the near-term as he doesn’t want it to interfere with other efforts to stop RedPeak’s plans.
“I do think it is going to take place – it’s just a matter of time,” he said.
Before the meeting began, George Luce distributed a missive he wrote calling into questions the incident that took place one evening last month in Shepherd’s home when two women without an appointment ended being asked to leave following a shouting match.
“The ‘assault’ in question has two very different sides in the telling, contradictory versions of who really went ballistic on whom,” Luce wrote. Shepherd has since asked for additional police protection.
“But when a politician wants police protection from her own constituents, maybe the politician is out of sync with the voters and not the other way around,” Luce wrote.
Luce noted that he and his wife had voted for Shepherd, “foolishly assuming that she would respect the wishes of the residents of District One. Now we know better. And that’s why I’m thinking of running for her council seat next election.”
Much of the meeting was spent refuting what members claimed is “misinformation” spread by Shepherd, RedPeak, Mayor Michael Hancock and the media.
For example, members claimed that RedPeak had provided very little community outreach to date, reducing the number of units to 147 was in line with the 140 to 160 RedPeak planned from the get-go, and the height and mass of the buildings had not truly been reduced because they said the small size of the lots make it impossible to construct the buildings to the maximum size allowed by the U-MS-5.
Carrie Easton said that RedPeak’s decision to lower the height of the Moncrieff building to four stories, or 47 feet, was not a compromise at all. She said RedPeak admitted at a design meeting with the neighborhood that the reason it did so was because it could then charge premium rents on the fifth floors on the other two buildings which will have “phenomenal views of downtown.”
She said because of east-west constraints on the Moncrieff parcel it would be difficult to add a fifth floor. No one from RedPeak was immediately available for comment.
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com
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