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But judging from e-mails and other documents obtained through an open-records request, neighbors continued to log complaints. "Smells like rotting animal," one reported. "The problem is not going away, and we wish someone would take care of this," another said. "We can smell it even with the windows closed," vonSwearingen herself complained in May.

In February 2012, Syner organized a meeting at Brown's house with Brown, Linkhart and state representative Crisanta Duran, who represents RiNo. Montero had invited her to discuss state-level remedies, but Duran showed up early, chatted with Brown and was gone by the time the others arrived. (Duran subsequently asked a staffer to draft a memo outlining the state's air-quality-control law and how it interfaces with city ordinances. She says she sent it to the neighbors but never heard back from them.) It was a productive meeting nonetheless — and, Kasel would later argue in his lawsuit, the beginning of an odor-complaint assault against him.

That week, Syner sent an e-mail to vonSwearingen, asking her to disseminate a message to the RiNo Neighbors group: "While meeting with Doug Linkhart, we learned the city has a policy that if there are five or more complaints received on a particular property, we can actively pursue a violation," she wrote. "Councilwoman Montero is requesting your help to take action against the Pig Ear Factory. We are asking when you smell the odor to call 311 and send us your tracking number. We are hoping to get five complaints within a day or two to begin the violation process."

The five-complaints clause was added to the city's air-pollution ordinance in late 2008 as part of an extensive revision of the rules. The reason, says Celia VanDerLoop, the director of the Environmental Quality Division of the city's Department of Environmental Health, was that inspectors were having a hard time responding to odor complaints.

"Odor happens any time during the day or night, and we have inspectors who basically work 8 to 5," VanDerLoop says. By the time an inspector is available to respond, the smell may be gone. "Odor is notoriously fickle that way," she adds.

The clause specifies that for a complaint to be considered valid, it must include the complainant's name, address and phone number, the time and date of the call, a description of the odor, and an estimation of where it's coming from.

Finally, the neighbors had recourse. On March 19, seven people complained about the stench. That afternoon, Syner e-mailed the tracking numbers to Gary Lasswell, a supervisor with the Department of Environmental Health and Siller's boss. "Hi Gary," she wrote. "Can we verify the complaints below? Will these be sufficient?" Five were deemed valid. On April 18, Kasel was served with a Notice of Violation and instructions to pay a $500 fine within thirty days.

Two days later, Brown sent an e-mail to the RiNo Neighbors and copied Siller: "We have just celebrated twenty years living across the street from Kasel Industries, and a more frustrating experience I can't imagine. In the '90s, the annoyance was a loud screeching from a refrigerating fan that ran unabated all summer. Only after three years did we finally meet with Ray, personally contribute $2,000, Silver Square paying $6,000, to replace the old fan with a new quieter one.

"The switch to pig ear processing several years ago was the next assault on our senses. I have been reporting the stench for YEARS. There is no 'pattern' because it happens on weekends, at night, anytime that our environmental folks aren't working. Any fine would be negligible to a millionaire like Ray, and he has a lawyer on retainer who shuts down communication.

"I believe the best hope lies in a concerted neighborhood effort."

On May 15, Kasel's lawyer, Kevin O'Toole, filed a petition for review with the Board of Environmental Health, arguing that the city ordinance was unconstitutional, arbitrary and unreasonable. The neighbors were besmirching Kasel's reputation, he wrote, and organizing an effort to shut him down. City officials were helping, he added, and he quoted from an e-mail that Linkhart wrote to Syner after their meeting, reiterating the five-complaints clause: "As you know, we have spent a lot of time on this particular facility, with many visits to test the air for odors and many meetings," Linkhart wrote. "Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions."

O'Toole also made mention of two fliers posted around RiNo. One quoted from the message Syner asked vonSwearingen to send to the RiNo Neighbors in February. But in e-mails to each other, Syner, vonSwearingen and Brown all denied posting the flier. Another flier called Kasel an "unethical businessman" and the smell from his factory "repugnant" and "funky."

Funky or not, O'Toole argued that the odor violation should be dropped. Because Kasel's property is zoned industrial, O'Toole wrote, Kasel could bake all the pig ears he wanted.

***********

On June 14, Kasel met face-to-face with the three complaining neighbors he's now suing. They were witnesses at the administrative hearing his lawyer requested to appeal the violation, at which O'Toole faced off against Katie Wilmoth, a lawyer from the Denver City Attorney's Office.

Siller, the city investigator, took the stand first. He testified that he verified the five complaints against Kasel by calling the complainants and asking what they smelled on March 19. He also made a map of the area and denoted the wind conditions that day: 10- to 20-mile-per-hour winds out of the southwest. But he admitted that he made no effort to determine if there was anything stinky in that direction that could have caused the smell.

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17 comments
tkmsn
tkmsn

I am really angered by this article! A bunch of yuppy hipsters move into a "hip" new development and suddenly think they run the place! 

My one objection that I'm not too incensed over to put into words is these reports of the smell of human decomp. Really? I remain unconvinced these new residents have ever in their lives smelled a rotting body. Nevertheless, look around you! Do you not see the nearby neighborhoods? If you REALLY think that smell is a corpse, IT PROBABLY IS! I used to frequent an artist gathering at 35th and Walnut, only to stand at 36th and Downing later in the evening, awaiting the bus. At just the one bus stop, I have been both propositioned and threatened, and have seen drug deals going down. Imagine what could be happening at bus stops and back alleys across the neighborhood! Want to be an artist? Before you can portray life the way you can imagine it, you need to see it for what it is. You can give your little corner of town all the cutesy names you want, it doesn't change that it is a hard part of town, meant for industry, not young suburbanites.

I absolutely agree with Rick Corage: "People who have the money to live somewhere nice should live somewhere nice." (emphasis mine). Buying a loft gives you control of the loft, not control of the neighbors who were in their proper place before you edged in.

purplepomeranian
purplepomeranian

Gee you move into an area zoned nearby as heavy industrial what do you expect it to smell like roses.  This is the same reason why the industrial area of commerce city stinks its an industrial area.  Deal with it or move on out & go find a bed of roses to move into.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

I'd love to publish some of these comments in our print edition -- ideally with the author's full name. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com. And if you'd rather submit a different letter, that's fine, too!

globevilleneighbor
globevilleneighbor

I live nearby, in Globeville.  Our neighborhood is full of houses and is definitely zoned residential.  The smell is pretty awful there too.  I've always wondered where it came from.  

Petra7
Petra7

This is the reason that originally the zoning did not allow residential. The factory employs people in the area and zoning in other areas should avoid and restrict development like this to prevent further impacts like this one. Maybe they should move on and out. In addition, communities have been against developments for this very reason. They move into a community to push out what is already there,

suethebastards
suethebastards

As the Silver-Square dwellers set up their Christmas gear
Ray Kassel’s across the street, cooking a batch of fresh ear

Christmas is near and gifts require imagination
This year’s been rough, cause the lofts smell like bacon

Denver has an appetite and hungry for some tax
The developments approved, oh-yes…fresh green-backs

Historic factories built into lofts like new
With rail-yards nearby, what an impressive view

With the upcoming lawsuit and all that worry
The evidence smells good but not to the jury

And what about that clever gift fit for a friend?
Perhaps a wind sock located way downwind

A little something special for those RiNo tweeters
The hottest new gadget this year, “scentometers”

With the notion of Santa, and all his reindeer
Undergo a whiff, of flame broiled ear?

sandoze
sandoze

The Purina Plant is a welcome smell compared to the pig ear plant. My first experience with the stench I had considered calling 911 and reporting a dead body in one of the empty ruins of the 'hood. Needless to say it's affected where I patron. I can no longer go to the Walnut Room on days when the stench is in full bloom, it literally comes in through the air filters. I have a feeling the Populist will be the next victim.

As for the comments saying it's the fault of the people who moved there should realize that these areas of Denver are no longer 'out of town' just as LoDo is no longer a downtown ghetto, Brighton Ave is no longer home to a landfill and Stapleton is no longer far enough away to justify an airport that close to the city. Residential and commercial space in that area has been approved and some of it has been there before the pig ears began to roast. There's something to be said about being a good neighbor. Kasel should consider spending less money on lawsuits and more money on retrofitting his filtration system.

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

Instead of reading the entire 6-page article, let me sum it up for
everyone: douchebags moved into an industrial neighborhood, complained
about it's side effects from being an industrial neighborhood, and
doucebag industry owner is vindictive.

jennikoa
jennikoa

This is so reminiscent of when all those people moved out to the new housing developments by the airport and then bitched about the noise.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

I am thrilled to discover that scentometers exist. If they were available to the general public, I would purchase one.

robertpcollins
robertpcollins

I've never smelled a stench in that neighborhood!

admin174
admin174

I was on site for two and a half hours during business and didn't smell one thing. 

RiNoRes
RiNoRes

@tkmsnYou are grossly misinformed.  Silver Square residents bought for cheap years ago and before Kasel Factory was making "dog treats" that have been found to be contaminated with salmonella (google that). They were manufacturing non-odor producing industry when residents moved in then switched manufacturing later on. Doubtful you would enjoy a factory spewing out vile odors of dead animal parts after you had already been living in your residence.

tkmsn
tkmsn

@patricia.calhoun just posted a comment - still feeling pretty turbulent about the whole mess! so it may not be much good, but if you want to use it in print, go ahead. I'd rather not use my full name, but you can print it as T. Mason.

maryloudesign
maryloudesign

@globevilleneighbor 

The odors in Globeville used smell much worse, sickening really, with meat packing, tanneries and (gag) rendering plants. The meat packing industry began in 1882 and was viewed as an asset, attracting people to the area for the jobs and affordable housing. By the 1980s, most of those industries had disappeared with consolidation in meat packing and standards of what was acceptable from industry had changed as well. Although there is a city ordinance that deals with odors (in 1970 it was Denver City Ordinance No 760.12) there doesn't seem to be an effective way to measure odors. Decisions about enforcement depend on the kind of businesses already in the area.


Tally
Tally

@jenna-furrr Can't WW get one for you?  I am sure the cost could be justified as a business expense.  Just think of all the places you could use it.

tkmsn
tkmsn

@RiNoRes @tkmsn So... I googled salmonella. I'm not really sure what you were hoping to prove to me by having me do so. As my original post is concerned mainly with my doubt that the residents of the RiNo neighborhood know what a corpse smells like, I had supposed you hoped there was an article in existence to link the smell of salmonella poisoning to the smell of human decomp. If there is such an article in existence, I didn't find it. Go ahead. Call me misinformed.

I admit... I'm not all up-to-date on industry law. It may well be that manufacturing industries are legally prohibited from making any changes in manufacturing procedures when the consequence will be devastating to the highly-attuned senses of nearby entitled-to-the-world-on-a-silver-platter residents. It seems unlikely, but I do hear rumor of unlikely laws all the time.

Doubtful you know me at all, RiNoRes. Doubtful you know that I am all-too-familiar with general industry and the unpleasantness surrounding it. Perhaps you are right, though. Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy a factory spewing out vile odors of dead animal parts. Or, perhaps I would understand that buying "for cheap" always comes with hidden caveats, and that buying near an industrial zone is not bound to produce pleasant results. This all seems rather circumspect, but here's what I know:    Had I bought "for cheap" anywhere in town and been disappointed in the consequences, I would take responsibility for my poor-decision making and leave; I would not TAKE IT PERSONALLY and BULLY THE LOCAL BUSINESSES.

 
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