- Judge’s ruling doesn’t sit well with opponents of zoning in NW Denver.
- President of the WHNA says the next step is being pondered.
- Due diligence needed before neighbors decide whether to appeal.
Neighbors who opposed zoning that allows five-story buildings are heart-broken and frustrated by a judge’s decision this week that lets the zoning stand, but have not yet decided whether they will appeal, according to the president of the West Highland Neighborhood Association.
“After presenting a very compelling case at the trial, it was heartbreaking to learn that the judge did not share the opinion of the community,” Neimond said on Friday, in the first public response from the neighbor’s side since the judge made his ruling on Wednesday.
Ten neighbors sued the Denver City Council and the landowner, a group headed by Tom Wootten, in April 2012. Initially, Denver-based RedPeak Properties, which had a contract to buy the properties on Lowell Boulevard, Meade Street and West Moncrieff Place, was part of the lawsuit. RedPeak no longer has the parcels under contract, but this week an official told Councilwoman Susan Shepherd that they would still like to develop the properties.
After a three-day bench trial that ended on Aug. 23, as well as written and oral summaries by each side, District Court Judge Robert L. McGahey, Jr., ruled in favor of the city and Wootten on every count.
“While we certainly respect his conclusion, we are not persuaded by his arguments against our case,” Neimond said.
Neimond said “frustrated” would be the best way to describe WHNA members. The group, the registered neighborhood organization for West Highland, has about 200 members. It doubled in size after many neighbors learned about a proposed development by Denver-based RedPeak Properties about two years ago.
Richard Montoya, one of the 10 neighbors who sued, said like the other plaintiffs, “I’m very disappointed about the decision about the three buildings that are going to be built in our so called stable neighborhood.”
Despite the judge’s ruling, he said that the city was wrong zoning the parcels U-MS-5, a decision made in June 2010 by the City Council that allows five-story buildings to be built on the parcels.
“What a shame our city can’t admit when they are wrong ,” Montoya said. ” We all have to admit when we are wrong.”
At one point, the WHNA was going to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff, although it never did for reasons that have not been made public.
“So many individuals have rallied around this cause and volunteered hours and hours of their time and talents to defend what we feel is in the best interests of all those that live, work, and recreate in West Highland,” Neimond said. “The end goal of these efforts has always been to maintain the tremendous character that has been developed over time in this area of stability.”
“One of the things that makes West Highland so desirable is the high level of community pride that we all share in and nurture. We are proud of the community that we have built and tend to each day,” he continued. “We really dig in when it comes to decisions that impact the neighborhood in ways that jeopardize our efforts to preserve and enhance the neighborhood, and this court case exemplifies that spirit.”
Residents of the neighborhood are weighing the next step, Neimond aid.
“A lot of community-minded folks are in the process of moving past our disappointment and into the phase of reviewing the judge’s decision to determine the appropriate path forward,” Neimond said. “Appealing a case like this is not an endeavor to jump into without performing due diligence, and that’s what folks in the neighborhood are doing as we speak.”
Montoya indicated the zoning battle could become an issue in the next City Council election.
“The only thing we can do now is make sure our elected officials are held accountable for their non-action,” Montoya said.
“Our votes will be counted,” during the next election, he said.
In his opinion, the zoning battle and the judge’s decision, “just goes to show all of that our government is broken as far down to city officials.”
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