In 2009, the Very Reverend Dr. Morgan — or Prior Rector Morgan, as he refers to himself in some ministry documents — applied for landmark status for the Bennett-Field house. Fearing that such designation would allow conversion of the building to offices, similar to the current use of the Zang Mansion, neighbors circulated petitions opposing the move. Landmark status was not granted, but the house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That summer, the Morgans sold 750 Clarkson to Barry and Vaun Swanson. Vaun, who'd worked as a pastor and social worker, wanted to transform the house into "a gathering place for women" known as Pomegranate Place, having already received assurances from zoning officials that the property could receive a permit for a club or lodge.

"Within a week after we closed, some of the neighbors were going door-to-door all over Capitol Hill with a petition against us," Swanson says. "We tried our best to meet all their concerns. But when we would meet one objection, they'd bring up another. It was quite an ordeal."

The city brought in a mediator to try to resolve the dispute. Zoning officials soon decided that the club permit for the property didn't fit the services offered by Swanson and her affiliates, which included an array of artists, counselors and therapists — not to mention herbalists, spiritual guides, a "mindful eating coach" and a "transformational breath facilitator." Swanson then obtained a "community center" permit. Some neighbors sued the city over the issuance of that permit and lost in court. In addition to fielding complaints to the city from neighbors, prompting code enforcement and health inspections, Swanson had to negotiate her way through a maze of required updates of fire doors, stair railings and other features.

"The city has some responsibility here," she says. "The different departments don't talk to each other. You can talk to zoning, then talk to building, and get different stories. We spent tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys sorting this out."

Much of the opposition to Pomegranate Place appears to have dissipated in recent months. Neighbors concede that the place hasn't attracted the volume of noise and traffic they feared; Swanson worked out an arrangement with a law firm in the next block to use their parking lot after hours. She also arranged for a tenant in the basement, to address concerns that no one would actually be living on the premises. Swanson and her husband have also taken up residence around the corner. But some Pomegranate Place critics are far from satisfied.

"The greatest impact it has is that it isn't being used as a single-family home," says Doug Goldman. "It's not owner-occupied. I can't tell you how much money I have put into my house. Everybody has put a significant amount of money in their homes. When a home becomes a community center, it harms the spirit of the neighborhood."

Swanson says she has several supporters in the neighborhood now, but many are afraid to speak up for fear of being ostracized. "There are a few of the neighbors," she says, "who would be better suited to a gated community."

The battle over Pomegranate Place, though, was a mere skirmish compared to the brawl that's ensued over the fate of the Bennett-Field house. The initial asking price for the property, more than $1.3 million, failed to attract a buyer. The sliding economy was certainly one factor; the Pomegranate lawsuit, the signs in neighbors' windows decrying commercial use, and the odd tendency for neighbors to rearrange sprinklers and parking spots when there was an open house or showing at 740 Clarkson probably didn't help, either.

Last April, Jesse Lipschuetz learned that Open Door Ministries had acquired the property from Chase Bank through a short sale for $700,000. From a Facebook post, websites and other sources, he learned that ODM planned to move fifteen to twenty adult males into the house for its LightHouse program, described online as a "two-year men's discipleship program that provides a safe, caring and sober environment for those struggling with addictions, emotional hurt, and homelessness."

Lipschuetz thought that LightHouse sounded a lot like a large residential care facility, and he wondered why, as its next-door neighbor, he hadn't received the required notice of such a permit application from zoning. He researched the matter further and discovered that ODM had obtained a boardinghouse permit for 740 Clarkson on December 30, 2010 — months before the ministry owned or had even made an offer on the property.

A boardinghouse permit is a "use by right," meaning that no formal notification of neighbors is necessary. December 30 happened to be the last day that anyone could have acquired a boardinghouse permit for the Bennett-Field house: Under the new zoning regulations, the 700 block of Clarkson was down-zoned in a manner that prohibited such use.

When Lipschuetz attempted to protest the permit's issuance, zoning administrator Michael O'Flaherty denied the request, stating that such a protest had to be made within fifteen days of issuance of the permit — even though Lipscheutz hadn't found out about the permit until the house sale four months later.

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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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