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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.
Nancy Chapin with grandson Cameron
says the city reneged on a pledge to keep a concentration of group homes out of Capitol Hill.
Mark Manger
Nancy Chapin with grandson Cameron says the city reneged on a pledge to keep a concentration of group homes out of Capitol Hill.
Doug and Cedra Goldman (with sons Bryce and Collin) say the city reneged on a pledge to keep a concentration of group homes out of Capitol Hill.
Mark Manger
Doug and Cedra Goldman (with sons Bryce and Collin) say the city reneged on a pledge to keep a concentration of group homes out of Capitol Hill.

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."

"It's been a total communication breakdown," says city councilwoman Jeanne Robb, who's been lauded by residents for trying to mediate the dispute. "I am somewhat shocked that the realtor and the property owner didn't talk to us before the sale, that David Warren didn't talk to us. We didn't know that Open Door had contracted to buy it. When I found out, I called David and said, 'You're not going to be happy on this block.'"

In addition to LightHouse, Clarkson residents have been dealing with two other new developments. Some of the neighbors went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the arrival of Pomegranate Place, an "empowerment center" for women, which holds prayer groups, book club discussions, poetry readings and art shows, and rents out space for other events. Homeowners have also been embroiled in heated public meetings over a 42-unit apartment complex planned a block away, at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Emerson, the former site of a community garden.

"I feel like we've got a big target on our back," says Goldman, whose family moved onto the block four years ago. "I don't know what the politics are, but the city doesn't seem to be as accommodating with the neighbors as they have been with these other groups. It's been very frustrating."

"We're not a bunch of old fussbuckets, but this has been a perfect storm," adds Chapin. "This is a block that's really worth saving. My husband and I might want to sell our house some day. But who's going to buy a house next to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts?"

"What the city says to me is that if someone has the zoning for a use permit, you give it to them," says Robb. "I see this as an ongoing, long struggle."

*****

A personal confession: I have no financial or other ties to any of the current residents of Clarkson Street, but it's part of a neighborhood that I could never be purely objective about. I spent most of the first eighteen years of my life across the alley on Emerson, in a two-and-a-half-story house my parents bought in 1956 and occupied for more than half a century.

Built in 1907, the house had once belonged to Henry T. Ellis, one of Capitol Hill's most successful real-estate hustlers. My father did much of the maintenance work on the place, which had the usual vagaries of plumbing and wiring that you expect in aging but sturdy grand dames. For many years, my mother was the organizer, treasurer and prime mover of the community garden on the corner, which sprang up on a vacant lot after the owner agreed to accept an annual tithe of fresh vegetables instead of rent.

In its first bloom, the neighborhood was "built predominately by people who exemplified the business and professional core of the Denver community," notes the citizen application for historic district status. The Bennett-Field house, for example, is named after its first two owners, attorney Edmon Bennett and Edward Field, who worked his way up from telephone operator to president of the Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company. Other luminaries who resided in the 700 block of Clarkson included Thomas Nolan, one of the founders of Universal Pictures; US National Bank president Gordon Jones; a Coors or two; and, of course, the Zang clan.

By the time our family arrived, the south end of Capitol Hill was no longer considered quite so fashionable. Respectably middle-class, yes, but not nearly as ritzy as a Country Club address or something in Cherry Hills. There were still movers and shakers to be found nearby — Dana Crawford, the resuscitator of Larimer Square, lived half a block down on Seventh Avenue, across the alley from car dealer Ralph Schomp and his schoolboard-member wife, Kay, and their six daughters. But there were also many old Denver squares that hadn't been kept up and were being carved into funky warrens or razed and replaced with some hideous cinderblock notion of apartment life.

Clarkson, which had evolved into a busy one-way, was one of the streets that bore the brunt of these changes. But during the Peña and Webb administrations, as the city took steps to revitalize its core neighborhoods, things began to turn around. Tougher zoning regulations discouraged the apartment conversions and limited the number of group homes that could operate in the area. The one-way street was reduced to one lane, slowing traffic and easing parking problems. After years of complaints from neighbors, a halfway house for parolees on the block was shut down. And the historic-district designation encouraged investment, restoration — even re-gentrification.

"Over the last ten to fifteen years, that block has really stabilized," says Robb. "The people coming in have been young, urban families. They expected something different when they bought there because of all the stabilizing factors."

But some eclectic elements remained. For almost forty years, the Order of Christ Centered Ministries operated out of two huge houses in the middle of the block. David Morgan and his wife, Delores, had moved into 750 Clarkson in the 1960s, then acquired the Bennett-Field house next door in 1970 — and renamed the two properties "The Priory" and "The House of St. Benedict." Although the attic and basement of the Bennett-Field house were converted into apartments, the common areas became a gathering place for retreats, meditation and Christian studies for a small group of seekers, primarily Episcopalians and Catholics. The ministry also claimed to "provide assistance for people in transition," including recovering alcoholics and people with mental-health issues. Yet the operation didn't cause much of a stir in the neighborhood until the Morgans started exploring the idea of selling the houses.

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.

Lipschuetz is now appealing O'Flaherty's decision to the Board of Adjustment. He declined to comment on the matter, citing the pending litigation — but his wife, who describes herself as "the neighborhood busybody and big mouth," has no such qualms.

"We think they had some high-level zoning advice," Chapin says. "They had until 4 p.m. on December 30 to pull that permit. At 3:30 in the afternoon, they got it in. It doesn't pass the smell test."

*****

Whatever zoning advice David Warren received prior to purchasing 740 Clarkson, he wishes it had been better. Thrilled at the time to acquire such a historic property at roughly half its initial asking price, the executive director of ODM now finds his ministry saddled with litigation and a $400,000 mortgage on a house that, at the moment, can't be used the way his group had hoped.

"Maybe I was naive, thinking this would work itself out," he says now. "I felt that once the neighbors got to know us and saw how we ran things, any concerns they had would be taken care of."

Warren has headed Open Door Ministries, an offshoot of the Open Door Fellowship Church, for the past fourteen years. The organization provides a variety of services to people who are disadvantaged or battling addiction, including youth programs, a preschool and housing for single moms and their kids. Last year ODM took over the LightHouse program from the Providence Network, another Christian nonprofit. LightHouse had been operating under a different name out of two homes in the 1100 block of Ogden Street without much fuss for years, but Providence was in the process of selling the properties, so Warren had to come up with a new home for the men.

Although his group's operation of the program is too recent to have much of a track record, Warren emphasizes that LightHouse has traditionally been a highly supervised — and voluntary — program. Residents pay $400 a month for room and board; agree to regular drug testing, curfews and other conditions; and stay up to two years. (The typical stay, others familiar with the program say, is about six months.)

"It's not a flophouse," Warren says. "We do background checks. We do take people who are currently on parole, but not if they're on parole for violent offenses."

"They're not all just off the street," adds John Sierra, who has been a resident manager of the program for nearly two decades. "We've had people from all walks of life — a pilot, a machinist, a guy who used to be doctor. People have their preconceived ideas about whatever they want to call us, but they don't really know us. These are just people trying to get on with their lives."

When Providence ran the show on Ogden, LightHouse had only a boardinghouse permit. But you could make the case that, under the zoning code, two large group homes offering intensive therapy and counseling to a special population of addicts constitutes a "large residential care use," a much more restrictive classification. Warren was certainly under that impression a year ago, when he applied for such a permit while looking into buying the Croke-Patterson mansion, a sprawling sandstone edifice that stretches along 11th Avenue between Logan and Pennsylvania streets.

Because of the number of group homes already in the area, "I knew we would need a variance," Warren says. He figured the neighborhood would welcome a productive group of tenants in the vacant building, which had become a magnet for vagrants and junkies. But overwhelming opposition at a public meeting convinced him to drop the idea: "It seemed like what we were trying to do was a better use for the property. A lot of people, though, just seemed really angry about the homeless issue in general. I guess that's just how some people feel."

After that debacle, Warren says, he was told by zoning staff that he didn't need a large residential care use permit after all. His e-mail correspondence with a staffer is ambiguous on that point, but Warren insists there was nothing duplicitous about his application for a boarding permit for 740 Clarkson, at a time when he wasn't even sure ODM was going to buy the property. He was acting with the owner's permission, he adds, and on the advice of officials who'd told him that the property was zoned for such a permit, which didn't require variances or public notice.

"We were going to use that house very similarly to the way it was used in the last forty years," Warren says. "There certainly weren't sixteen people living there for forty years, but at different times there were different numbers of tenants."

Morgan, the former owner, filed an affidavit in the subsequent court battle supporting Warren's position. "During the entire forty years we used the property, there were at least 15 and as many as 20 people living at the house at any given time," he informed the court. "These people contributed money in order to stay at the house and would live at the house on average around three years."

Morgan's assertion is disputed by Chapin, other longtime neighbors and at least one former tenant of 740 Clarkson, all of whom describe the place at various times as containing four apartments housing a total of fewer than ten people. In any event, the "historic use" argument didn't cut Warren much slack with Denver District Judge Norman Haglund, who in May granted the preliminary injunction sought by Lipschuetz. Haglund ruled that ODM had properly obtained the boardinghouse permit and could operate as such, but the zoning code requires a more extensive review and permit process in order to operate the LightHouse program. He prohibited the group from offering counseling, requiring curfews or drug testing on the property, or otherwise treating its boardinghouse residents as anything other than tenants.

ODM now holds its counseling sessions in a rented room at the Zang Mansion. Religious services and drug testing are done off-premises, too. Curfews are out of the question. Indeed, nothing in the lease requires the residents of 740 Clarkson to be good disciples. "It's not a program right now," Warren sighs. "If you're in the house, that doesn't necessarily mean you're in the program. It's not ideal."

Having learned a great deal about the nuances of Denver's zoning code over the past twelve months, Warren is now seeking a transitional-housing permit for the property that, he hopes, will allow his group to operate the LightHouse program — without the zoning variance that a large group home would require.

"With large residential care, you could have people who stay there for years," Warren says. "Our guys, the whole goal is for them to get on their feet and transition into permanent housing. If zoning would have told me a year ago that transitional housing isn't limited to eight people, that you could have sixteen or more, we never would have applied for a boarding home."

Zoning administrator O'Flaherty says the key difference between transitional housing and large residential care has to do with the level of treatment and supervision provided; occupants of a residential care facility "are receiving more than twelve hours a day of on-premises treatment or care," he explains.

When ODM first applied for a transitional-housing permit in June, the group was turned down. "The program that was being asked for provided a level of care that constituted a special-care home," O'Flaherty says.

Warren reapplied, revising statements in the application that had to do with the degree of supervision provided. This time zoning moved the application forward; it's now under formal review, with a public comment period ending August 24. Warren contends that the new, improved program — call it LightHouse Lite — is a lot like the old one, with mainly "semantic" changes.

"There were some inconsistencies in the way we said things," he says. "We got the list of approved transitional-housing programs in the city, and a lot of them are very similar to ours. Providence House is transitional housing, and LightHouse used to be part of the Providence Network."

At least some Clarkson residents support ODM's bid for the new permit, reasoning that it will provide more control of the tenants than is possible under the current arrangement. "If they can get the appropriate zoning, LightHouse will be monitoring these guys and testing them," notes Jeffrey Matthias, building manager of the Versailles, a high-rise of mostly owner-occupied condos on the corner. "I wish I could run criminal background checks and pre-screen every one of my neighbors. I manage a building of 58 units. There are plenty of alcoholics here, but they're not seeking help."

Matthias says he's astonished at the uproar over what he considers a sensible use of the property. "There are very few single families that want to live in the middle of the city and own a 7,000-square-foot place like that with a tiny yard," he says. "What's more likely to happen is that someone would buy it and turn it into apartments. I would rather see it used this way. It's an opportunity for us to support people improving their lives."

Warren points out that the transitional-housing application will provide neighbors with an opportunity to file objections — something they didn't have when the boarding permit was quietly obtained at the end of the year: "All the neighbors will have a chance to have their say. That's what they say they want. But what some of them really seem to want is for us not to be there."

Chapin complains that Warren is trying to "shave a square peg to fit into a round hole" in order to evade the 2,000-foot spacing ordinance for group homes. "They keep morphing into something else," she says.

O'Flaherty describes the zoning code as a "level playing field," fair to all concerned. "If an applicant is not very knowledgeable of our code, they may submit for an apple when they should submit for an orange," he says. "That happened earlier in this case, and we advised the applicant of what they needed to do. If a permit application meets code requirements, we're obligated to issue it."

An appeals process is available for anyone dissatisfied with zoning decisions, adds Community Planning and Development spokesman Julius Zsako. "If the property owner does something that doesn't conform with the permit, we welcome feedback from the community," he says.

But the city's approval of the Pomegranate Place and LightHouse permits has put the neighbors in an untenable position, Goldman contends. "So it's up to us to monitor and police the use of the property and see that they're doing only what their permit allows," he says. "In both cases, the city has put the onus on the neighborhood to do what is, in my opinion, the city's job."

City inspectors have required ODM to install a fire escape on the property, and house manager Sierra says the group has also received "unfounded" complaints from Chapin and others about trash and odors. ("You could hear them having this long shouting match the other day," Chapin reports, "about somebody not following the program.") But some other residents say they've scarcely noticed the new men on the block.

"I think it shows poorly on the neighbors that they've gone after both of these groups," says Matthias. "It's legitimate to be worried about your property values, but I don't know if I would buy into a neighborhood full of negativity like this."

*****

On a sweltering summer afternoon, a handful of south Capitol Hill residents gather in an airless meeting room at Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral to inspect the latest design changes in the apartment complex planned for the corner of Eighth and Emerson. The projector's not working, so the group has to huddle around the laptop of Chris Fulenwider, the architect and developer of the project.

The mood is glum. This is the last in a procession of neighborhood meetings, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods forums and informal presentations of the project before Fulenwider seeks final approval of the design from Denver's Landmark Preservation Commission. He's expected to get it.

This is the first major project in Denver for Fulenwider, the 32-year-old scion of a prominent real-estate family who's now operating on his own. He's made a number of tweaks to the design since last November, in response to neighbors' concerns about the blockish, dense and thoroughly modern character of the structure; one objector complained that the building looked "like East Germany had landed in Capitol Hill."

Fulenwider points out features on the Emerson Street side intended to make the three-story, 42-unit complex "blend in" with the neighborhood. There's a "gesture to the dormers found on the single-family homes," leading to a "transitional element to that rowhouse rhythm that happens along Eighth." Regulars concede that the design is an improvement over previous proposals.

That doesn't mean they're on board, though. The site has been zoned for a multi-unit dwelling for decades; in fact, the community garden was evicted from the lot years ago in anticipation of pending development that never transpired, leaving the property empty and choked with weeds. But Fulenwider's project contains a lot more units than the neighbors had hoped. No dormer gestures can disguise the beehive-like swarming of the place, with its minimal setbacks and stark interior courtyard and bare-bones amenities — though there will be underground parking and a small tenant garden plot on the south side. The average unit will be 650 square feet, conjuring up fears among the assembled of the tiny balconies being converted into outdoor storage closets. Fulenwider expects to get upwards of a thousand dollars a month for the units.

The neighbors pepper Fulenwider with questions about trash storage and whether homeless people might seek out the parking garage at night. They wonder if the lack of an elevator violates Americans With Disabilities Act standards. (It doesn't, Fulenwider assures them.) Many of the comments have to do with a big, square, picture-frame-like element, formerly metal and now stucco, on the building's façade, a motif that carries over from the Emerson side to Eighth as part of that transition from single-family feel to rowhouse rhythm.

"To me, that's saying, 'Look at me, I'm huge,'" one resident says.

"It looks like a bank building from here," says another.

Cedra Goldman, wife of Doug and an architect herself, is one of the most vocal. "This is actually detracting from how far you've come," she says. "This just doesn't fit. It feels completely out of place."

Fulenwider listens stolidly. He makes no commitments to further changes. After everyone's had their say, he packs up his laptop and departs. Goldman seems resigned to the inevitable.

"We think this is a horrible development, but a lot of the neighbors have given up," she says. "It's probably going to get approved for all the wrong reasons."

The next day, as Goldman expected, the project wins approval from the Landmark Preservation Commission. Fulenwider hopes to break ground this winter.

"Capitol Hill is the best rental market in Denver," he says, "and that's just an incredible site. There is a lot of opposition. They don't want an apartment building in their neighborhood. I've tried to accommodate some of their concerns. But I feel like I've given everywhere that I can give."

He could have chosen to proceed under the old zoning regulations, he notes, which allowed for a high-rise on that corner. "I chose to down-zone because I felt it fit the neighborhood," he says. "On a macro scale, this is good for the city. It's good urban development, it's walkable, it's near transit, all those things. It's very appropriate."

But just what is appropriate on a micro scale, on the scale of one family's hearth and home and the apartment house or community center or group home next door, is still a matter of great division on Clarkson Street. In the latest Open Door Ministries newsletter, David Warren reflects that the battle over the LightHouse program "has been a good opportunity to practice the second greatest commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself" — even if "your neighbor is someone who is very different from you and who might have hostility towards you."

The Good Book is silent, alas, on the subject of zoning disputes. But on Clarkson, there's no love lost for Denver's zoning code, which the combatants have come to regard as distinctly lacking in neighborliness.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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.

 
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