One Tow Over the Line

Floyd Samuel says there auto be a law against what the city is doing to him.

On top of that, there's the fact that car impound lots aren't very attractive neighbors--and the city wants to make Stapleton a showplace. "Everyone is sensitive to the fact that there's real important community needs to get rid of junk vehicles, and using Stapleton as a temporary site might relieve some of those pressures," says Denver City Councilwoman Happy Haynes, whose district includes Stapleton. But, she adds, the car lot "clearly does not fit into the long-term plans of Stapleton at all.

Lot manager Peagler says he understands the city's reluctance to move the impound lot to Stapleton permanently. "It's concern for aesthetics," he says. "It's like, do you want to live next to a county or state institution?"

The Stapleton lot will store excess vehicles for about nine months. By then, the city hopes to have its Brighton Boulevard expansion completed.

In the last month, the city has claimed two acres right next door to Samuel, land formerly owned by an auto wrecking shop called A2Z. The city's check came in at $40,000 less than the value of the land as assessed by A2Z, says employee Dwayne Fowler, and there was no money for relocation of the shop a few blocks away to Cook Street. "They basically fucked us," says Fowler. "They didn't give us anything to get out."

Now, Fowler adds, the city wants to charge $100 for each day the shop goes over its set departure day. "I don't know how they're gonna collect," he says. "I'm not givin' it to 'em."

Bob Peters, who runs an auto wrecking business across the street from A2Z and next door to Samuel, has owned his land since 1963. He got a letter from the city a few months ago, then a visit from the city's appraiser.

"They need space, so they're just doin' whatever they do," says Peters. "I guess you don't have any choice. I just think they're gonna go ahead and take it. I don't really feel that's right.

"You go on working your business, and they come up with rules and regulations to change all that," he continues. "It's kind of like dropping a bombshell on you. That's very disgusting."

But if and when the city makes him an offer, Peters says, he doesn't think he'll be able to refuse it.

Nor does Samuel's friend Michael O'Brien, who's lost land to Denver before. Years ago, he says, the city moved him off land he owned on Sheridan to build a chunk of I-76. "I fought the last one, hired a lawyer, the whole thing," he says. "And I lost, big-time.

"As a landowner you feel very put-upon," O'Brien adds. "It's just a situation where you're not sympathetic to their problems. I'm sure they have problems. If it was a situation where they overpaid you for the inconvenience, it would be great. But they don't."

O'Brien knows the city won't compensate Samuel for any relocation costs, and says he plans to give him a cut if any of Samuel's improvements to the land add value to the appraisal.

But O'Brien isn't holding his breath. "Ours is probably the most disorganized property there," he says. "I think they just thought it was a fly-by-night outfit. I don't think they can relocate paintball anywhere, so paintball is down the tubes."

Asset manager Brown says the city will try to "work with all the tenants there to make things as easy as we can." There's a limit to the city's charity, though. "That doesn't mean we'll be throwing a bunch of money to everybody," he adds. "There's not gonna be a whole pot of money."

Instead, he says, once the city assumes the property, it may give Samuel thirty to sixty days to move out, and not charge him rent during that time.

"It's an unfortunate situation for him," says Brown. "All I can say is it's the nature of being a tenant--he might have had to move anyway. We have a need to pull cars in from the four corners of the county. The last thing we want to do is only buy enough land to last us for one year."

The current impound lot has been in use for twenty years. "The new acreage would provide room for another 900 cars," says captain Enriquez. "It's going to last us the next ten or fifteen years."

But while city officials say the expansion is a long-term fix, others are not so sure. "Even if they take this property here," says Leon Braunagel, "they still won't have enough room."

"Even nine acres here are not gonna handle the problem," says Samuel.
"They'll move Floyd off his property, then let it go after a year," says a Denver cop who asks not to be identified. "The city thinks they can go in and play big bull whenever they want."

The City of Denver's twice-monthly car auction is a regular tailgate party. Cars pack both sides of Brighton Boulevard. You can grab a burrito and a Coke from a vendor working out of his van, then head through the fence to the auction yard.

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