A grassroots group has raised “tens of thousands of dollars” to fight a plan by Denver-based RedPeak Properties to develop three luxury apartment buildings in the trendy West Highland neighborhood, according to the founder of No High Rises in West Highland.
Laura Goode, who founded the organization in October 2011, on Thursday night briefed about 40 neighbors about fundraising efforts and a lawsuit against RedPeak by 10 neighbors who live near the proposed buildings in the Highlands Square area just north of West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. RedPeak plans to build a five-story building on Lowell and another on Meade Street, as well as a four-story building on West Moncrieff Place.
On Tuesday, members of the West Highland Neighborhood Association, the registered neighborhood organization representing the area, will decide whether the No High Rise group should become a party to the lawsuit that was filed in Denver District Court in April. If the WHNA decides to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff, it will not be responsible for any potential legal costs.
The neighbors are suing RedPeak, an investment group headed by Tom Wootten that owns the three parcels and the Denver City Council, contending the proposed buildings are out-of-character in the neighborhood that is considered an “area of stability” by the city. It also contends the proposed buildings will lower nearby property values. RedPeak and Wootten’s group have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit and are seeking to have their legal costs reimbursed by the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit also names Robert Sechler, who owns a building on Lowell Boulevard, as a defendant, although Goode says Sechler supports their cause. For legal reasons, he had to be included in the lawsuit, but at some point Sechler will be removed as a defendant, she said.
Goode, speaking in the basement of the Highlands Church on Lowell Boulevard, which would have a portion of the structure incorporated into the new development, said she will not reveal the exact amount of money raised by “our little community,” because she fears that will provide ammunition to RedPeak and the landowner group.
“They will bankrupt us,” if they knew the exact amount raised, she said.
She said RedPeak and Wootten’s group have hired “top-name and the most expensive,” law firms in Denver. “Why? Because they are afraid of us,” and told the gathered neighbors they should give themselves a “round of applause,” which they did.
RedPeak has hired the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP and Wootten’s group has retained Otten, Johnson, Robinson, Neff & Ragonetti, P.C. RedPeak officials declined to comment.
The neighbors are represented by two Littleton-based law firms: Reutzel & Associates LLC and Miller & Law P.C.
Goode said the group’s lawyers have assured her they think they have a good chance of a “favorable ruling. There is a lot of validity to our case.”
District Court Judge Kenneth M. Laff has been assigned to the lawsuit. Goode said Laff is known to be “community minded” and is a fairly new judge, which might work in their favor.
Laff is a Denver native who was sworn is as District Court Judge in January 2009. Before being appointed to the bench by former Gov. Bill Ritter, he had been a deputy district attorney for the City and County of Denver since 2000. Before joining the district attorney’s office Laff, who received a law degree from Stanford Law School in 1977, practiced law in New York City and had been a partner with Holme, Roberts & Owen in Denver.
Following the meeting, Goode said the No High Rise group has received more than one donation of $5,000, while the typical donation is about $200.
Although No High Rises in West Highland is registered as a nonprofit with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, any donation to the group or its legal fund, is not tax deductible, Goode said.
The group is in the process of converting to a 501(c) 4, a nonprofit designation for civic leagues, social welfare organizations and local employee associations, which would make donations tax deductible, she said.
Goode said she doesn’t think the lack of being able to deduct donations is stopping people from financially stepping up the plate, because the issue is so important to so many people.
On the other hand, “It could help us,” to raise money, if donations were tax deductible, she added.
The group plans several fundraisers. One will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 20 at a home at 3016 Osceola St. The cost is $25 at the door and all proceeds will go directly to the West Highland Legal Fund. A silent auction and other fundraisers also were discussed at the meeting.
One person came late to the meeting because she had been attending the anti-Walmart meeting on traffic and financing for the proposed redevelopment of the former University of Colorado Hospital site at East 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.
She said opponents were selling anti-Walmart signs for $10 each to raise money and encouraged the No High Rise group to do the same.
For a snapshot of how the West Highland housing market is doing, please visit COhomefinder.com
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