Are homeowners on Clarkson getting zapped by Denver zoning?

Are homeowners on Clarkson getting zapped by Denver zoning?
Mark Manger

If a team of urban explorers set out to gauge the health of neighborhoods in central Denver, they could do worse than to start with the 700 block of Clarkson Street. It's a great vantage point for studying the city's rich history, its triumphs and mistakes, its awkward efforts to build and preserve communities while simultaneously messing with them.

Over the years, this strip of Clarkson has been home to the gentry and the disenfranchised, artists and felons, moguls and mystics. Like much of Capitol Hill, the block is a mélange of grand turn-of-the century homes and less distinguished apartment houses dating from more recent periods of economic upheaval. To the north of Eighth Avenue, as you draw ever closer to Colfax, hulking, multi-unit dwellings and old Denver squares chopped into apartments dominate; to the south, single-family residences prevail. But the 700 block of Clarkson Street seems to offer an uneasy balance between the two.

On three corners, the block is anchored by apartments or condos. The fourth is occupied by the Zang Mansion, built for brewing and mining tycoon Adolph Zang in 1905. Most of the rest of the block is taken up by imposing brick homes from the same period, with bold dormers, inviting porches, elaborate woodwork and even a few neoclassic pillars that mirror Zang's monument to himself. Many of the homes have been lovingly renovated by families that have moved into the area over the past two decades, in the wake of the 1992 designation of the Seventh Avenue Historic District and a subsequent jolt in property values.

740 Clarkson
Mark Manger
740 Clarkson
David Warren, director of Open Door Ministries, hopes to operate a program for recovering addicts at 740 Clarkson.
Mark Manger
David Warren, director of Open Door Ministries, hopes to operate a program for recovering addicts at 740 Clarkson.

Several homes sport bronzed address signs and plaques announcing their pedigree — built such-and-such date, National Register of Historic Places this, landmark status that. But in recent months, the block has sprouted more unsettling signs. There are yellow placards in windows opposing the "commercial use" of 740 and 750 Clarkson; a huge blue sign in the middle of the block announcing a Board of Adjustment hearing for a zoning appeal; yet another sign notifying residents of the soon-to-expire comment period for a transitional-housing permit. These days Clarkson has the feel of a neighborhood under siege.

Much of the battle is focused on the house at 740 Clarkson, also known as the Bennett-Field house. Last spring, neighbors were alarmed to learn that the 6,700-square-foot behemoth in the heart of the block had been purchased by Open Door Ministries, which planned to operate a group home and faith-based treatment program called LightHouse, geared to recovering male addicts and alcoholics. The men arrived shortly thereafter — some employed, some not, some recently homeless or just released from prison.

"We see them in the alley a lot," says Doug Goldman, who lives two doors down from 740. "They enter through the alley — I don't think they give them keys. There's already some animosity, somebody standing in the alley and refusing to get out of the way of your car. There's a little bit of that going on."

"I think the neighbors ought to mind their own business," says Jamie, a bearded, bandanna-wearing LightHouse member who just moved into 740 Clarkson. "We're not troublemakers."

Capitol Hill isn't exactly known for NIMBY-ism, but the proliferation of group homes for "special populations" in the area has prompted some blowback. Last year, Open Door Ministries looked into purchasing the sprawling Croke-Patterson mansion on 11th Avenue for its LightHouse program, only to meet strong opposition from neighbors there. The move to 740 Clarkson then triggered a lawsuit from next-door neighbor and attorney Jesse Lipschuetz, who contends that ODM obtained a boardinghouse permit for 740 Clarkson under false pretenses, when the organization actually intended to operate a "large residential care use" facility at the property.

A city ordinance requires that such facilities be at least 2,000 feet from each other and that no more than two can exist within a 4,000-foot radius of any newcomer. There are already three such facilities less than 4,000 feet from 740 Clarkson.

ODM executive director David Warren says he was misinformed by zoning officials when he sought a "large residential care use" permit for the Croke-Patterson property — and misinformed again when he obtained a boardinghouse permit for Clarkson. Responding to Lipschuetz's complaint, a judge has ordered that ODM can't operate its full treatment program under a boardinghouse permit, so Warren has now applied for a transitional-housing permit.

"I wish we would have been able to do this before we purchased the house," Warren says, "but we just didn't have the correct information from zoning."

LightHouse opponents are also pointing fingers at the zoning code — which, despite the major overhaul completed last summer, continues to offer a large and bewildering menu of options and loopholes. Residents claim that city officials are so eager to pursue competing agendas, such as developing transitional housing for the homeless and transit-friendly infill projects, that they've faltered in their commitment to preserve the character of historic neighborhoods and protect property values.

"Not only have we have had no cooperation from the city, they've been downright obstructionist," says Nancy Chapin, the wife of plaintiff Lipschuetz. "The city has reneged on its promise to us, those of us who have lived in the neighborhood for years and have been fixing things up and making nice. They told us they wouldn't put these group homes within 2,000 feet of each other. But in some parts of Capitol Hill, you can hardly swing a dead cat without running into a residential-care facility."

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26 comments
AddisonDewitt
AddisonDewitt

I don't know what's worse: a building full of criminals or a building full of chanting women. At least if you kill the guys, no one will complain.

Urbanliving
Urbanliving

Does any resident of this part of Cap Hill not love the facility operated at the NW corner of 11th and Pearl? We try not to walk on that side of the corner at all costs, so as to avoid the tall Night Stalker looking guy from giving my fiancee the 1,000 yard stare. Serving a useful purpose or not, that place is so disgusting that it seems even the residents spend as much time as they can sitting outside on the stoop incessantly smoking and talking to themselves. The best part is if you are nearby early in the morning when the residents are outside for their first smoke of the day, you can hear them hacking phlegm balls at least a block away. Hooray for more treatment facilities wherever this Warren guy lives!

Zebo
Zebo

Liberals getting a dose of liberalism but don't like it in their backyard.

jenniferAD
jenniferAD

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from : BidsBit.com

Edmund
Edmund

"... the neighbors ought to mind their own business," says Jamie, a bearded, bandanna-wearing LightHouse member... Uh, Jamie... the neighborhood IS their business...

juliaal
juliaal

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.Here is the website we use to get it all from : http://BidsBit.com

julie4Lo
julie4Lo

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.Here is the website we use to get it all from : http://BidsBit.com

julie4Lo
julie4Lo

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.Here is the website we use to get it all from : http://BidsBit.com

calhounp
calhounp

we'd like to include some of these comments in our print edition -- ideally with the author's name and town. If that's okay, let me know at patricia.calhoun@westword.com. Or feel free to send me another version that you'd like to see published.

Ronb77
Ronb77

leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and paid 5000 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she also submitted fake employment records to obtain a work visa. she is now applying for citizenship. her contact at the embassy was man named sandman.

GregInDenver
GregInDenver

I have owned a condo a few blocks away for over 10 years. One of the hallmarks of an urban environment is that it is mixed use (my block is not as "ritzy" as 700 Clarkson). There are plenty of suburbs in the Denver area where uses are completely segregated, if that's what these owners want. It requires a lot of money to buy a house in this area, and apparently these homeowners think that their money entitles them to exclude people they don't like from the neighborhood. They may well succeed, and then we can look forward to more people with addictions and other issues wandering the streets of Capitol Hill rather than getting help. Good job, neighbors.

S. G.
S. G.

I fully understand the frustration of the homeowners. I, too, live in a neighborhood that has an overabundance services and very low income housing: homeless shelters, homeless services, homeless transitional housing, single room occupancy (SRO) housing, very low income rentals. This area has way more of its share of no & low income housing and services. Neighborhoods need an economic balance. Right now we are too tilted to low income, yet, those projects keep coming. We are not NIMBY. We all live together. But what we need is more "for sale" workforce housing. We would like neighborhood services--like a restaurant or two but economic development requires that people have money to spend. Those homeowners on Clarkson are seeking some stability and they just keep getting another halfway house. It makes us weary. Enough is enough!

Kendra
Kendra

I live on a block away on Clarkson, and its a crying shame a family didn't buy this stately home. Capitol Hill's been a dumping ground for half-way houses for decades. Now the neighborhood's finally clawing back & should fight junk like this, that drags down values.

CM
CM

The graceful solution would be for Open Door to admit they did not do their proper due diligence before purchasing the property so they did not know that it could not legally be used for the LightHouse program. They should move the program to an area where it is legal to operate it with all of the appropriate supervision of the residents. It seems that they purchased the property for a great price and should be able to sell it and make a profit. Wouldn't this be a win-win solution?

Mike S
Mike S

Westword is there any reason why you keep publishing these stories that just seem to ooze anti Christian this and anti Christian that? Seriously this is getting old. People can read between the lines. If this didn't have to do with a Christian provided service you would care less. Are you ever going to print anything we can actually talk about?

Considering you are on the front page of Yahoo's home page every day,your following is laughable. After two weeks you can barely muster a half a dozen tweets. Your comment section is also about the same level as a story on pulling weeds.

Maybe next week you can give us another nauseating article about how people going to church take up too many parking places. Or perhaps how all those people going to church are contributing to the Global warming problem. What ever it is I think I would rather read anything but these useless stories nobody cares about except for you and maybe three other people.

Vibekeb70
Vibekeb70

Dear Alan,

you article is well written. I am personally familiar with both the owners of 750 and 740 clarkson street. I belive in the depth of my heart that they have nothing but good intetntions for the neigbourhood and its further development. I belive the thought that any one family would be able to afford these great mansions in this economy is greatly erronious. So should we let these great historical properties fall into dissarry, or let them benefit a greater part of the community. My most saddening though is that the community spirit of clarkson street misses the gracefull spirit that previously inhabited both 740 1nd 750 Clarkson Street, not due to its new inhabitants but rather due to the un-hospitiable feelings of the neighbourhood. I live in capitol hill and love capitol hill, but do not love the lack of grace that currently inhabits the " neighbours" on clarkson street. Please do not ascibe ill intent to people who you have made no effort to get to know.

with the hope of the emergence of a more gracefull neighbourhood

Vibs

Urbanliving
Urbanliving

Pssst, Zebo, maybe if you use a couple more derivations of the word liberal in your post, it will form a complete thought.

N.D.
N.D.

Like it or not, these so-called entitled neighbors strike me as the "little guys" in this story. If you want to talk money, entitlement, and power... then let's look at how Open Door Ministries has decided to exercise theirs: Open Door Ministries is a large, well known and politically connected charity in urban Denver and has chosen to spend $300k provided to them by generous donors on a project that they simply must have known was a risky venture. If they didn't, then shame on them.

Less than a year ago, they were told this program could not operated at the Croke-Patterson Mansion because of zoning density ordinances. These ordinances are wisely designed to maintain the delicate balance of mixed uses, especially in these residential urban areas, to ensure a quality of life for all. Open Door Ministries' desired use at 740 Clarkson is for the same LightHouse rehabilitation program and for the same group of recovering men, but they're claiming it now now mysteriously falls under a different, less restrictive use classification. Why...? Because they must think they have enough political clout and access to free/donated legal assistance to take the risk and battle it out with Zoning and the neighbors.

To me, this is an abuse of power and a demonstration of poor judgement regarding the use of funds generously provided by individuals and entities who trust Open Door Ministries to wisely utilize their finances. Good job ODM.

Chapinprop
Chapinprop

Thank you for you support and your real understanding of the issues here. We're not just a bunch of stuck-up yuppies. We just want the security and stability of owner occupant neighbors, not transients with substance abuse problems who stated at a neighborhood meeting that they would be homeless if it weren't for this facility. Why can't these programs go save some guys in Littleton?

Mike
Mike

Well, we can talk about this property/addiction/zoning issue--without claiming some persecution complex. Christ would probably not be very impressed at the way you claim how hard you have it.

Get over yourself.

Chapinprop
Chapinprop

It is obvious who you are--the young woman who directs the ODM home for single moms. Your personal knowledge of the owners of 740 and 750 clarkson and your European spelling of "neighbors" are a giveaway. Is is not so difficult for a family to live in the houses on this block. we're already here. Every one of the houses on this block is owner occupied. We purchased our homes for a chosen urban life, on a RESIDENTIAL blockn not to have it invaded by commercial use and a halfway house which violates the established spacing ordinance. We're not a bunch of stuck-up yuppies, we want our street tobe a healthy, safe and secure place for our children and grandchildren. Would you buy a house next door to a treatment facility for recovering substance abusers? The damage done to our lives and futures is enormous--financially and functionally. Have you ever considered anyone's lives other than your own narrow view of life. Our "grace."has run out.

Jason
Jason

700k is well within the budget for a single family who enjoys all the great things that city living has to offer. Many of the homes on that block are single family owned and worth well more than that. But how can you expect a single family with young children to invest that much in a home in the area to then be stabbed in the back by the city. Which is just the case here, that facility would hurt the safety and make up of the area not to mention that single family who purchased in the neighborhood will lose up to 30% of their home value. There are plenty of other areas they can put their facility they don't need to further burden that area. Walk around the neighborhood there are beautiful historic homes that families have put a lot of time and money into preserving. The city needs to help support them not hurt them.

Joan
Joan

This isn't a situation of people using their money to exclude people they don't like, this is an abuse of an existing city ordinance.

" A city ordinance requires that such facilities be at least 2,000 feet from each other and that no more than two can exist within a 4,000-foot radius of any newcomer. There are already three such facilities less than 4,000 feet from 740 Clarkson."

Yes, the neighbors of 740 Clarkson are getting zapped. If I lived on the street I would rally my neighbors to fight this. Open Door Ministries has many properties to choose from - after all, it's a buyers market. Why did they have to choose one that breaks existing ordinances? Don't they know their bible versus ... "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." Their choice to ignore existing laws and the resulting turmoil are the kinds of thing that gives Christians a bad name.

 
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