Hideous Houses in Highland

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Ray Defa, right, lives in the West Highland neighborhood being considered for rezoning, and is one of its major proponents. I live in one of the highest demolition areas in northwest Denver, he says, explaining old, single-family residences in northwest Denver are being destroyed at an average rate of one a week, up from a total of nine during all of 2004. The problem, he says, is that, despite the areas largely single-family character, in the 1950s most of it was re-zoned R2, which allowed for multi-unit residences, to encourage denser development. While that didnt happen, its happening now, he says, with developers scraping off old homes in and around super-hot Highland neighborhoods to replace with big-box multiplexes that are good for their bottom line but not for neighbors. Lately the scrape-off frenzy has reached a fever pitch, says April Butler, left, whos been working on fixing the old house behind her for 15 years: Ive had developers drive onto my property and yell at me to sell my property because I am underutilizing it.

There's high drama in Highland and Sloan's Lake. On April 28, Denver City Council will consider a proposal to down-zone two areas in those neighborhoods. The local residents who launched the rezoning effort, which would prohibit developers from replacing single-family homes with multiplexes, say it's the only way to protect the area's historic housing stock from overdevelopment. Others argue the plan goes against property rights and limits neighborhood enhancement. While the two sides -- armed with yard signs, petitions and arcane zoning rules -- wage a block-by-block war, we decided to take a tour of the neighborhood to see what all the fuss is about. By Joel Warner

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