There's been a surprising development in the story of the tiny home village in RiNo. Today, November 1, the organization behind the village, the Colorado Village Collaborative, announced that Denver's Department of Public Works has rejected its permitting application to move eleven tiny homes currently on a plot of land near the 38th and Blake light-rail station to the TAXI campus.
The tiny home village, which houses formerly homeless individuals, has to move in December because the land it's on is slated for apartments that will be developed by the Urban Land Conservancy next year. The Colorado Village Collaborative has long known of these plans, and organizers had found new hosts for the tiny home village in Kyle and Mickey Zeppelin, who gave them space on their TAXI campus.
But in mid-October, the city started voicing concerns about flood control at the TAXI property, and on October 26, Denver Public Works denied the permit application.
"The site is in a 'potential flood inundation zone' in the event of a 100 yr flood," wrote Cole Chandler of the Colorado Village Collaborative in an e-mail to Westword. "Public Works did not feel comfortable putting a 'vulnerable population' at risk in temporary structures on this site."
In a text message, Kyle Zeppelin added, "It's a potential inundation area (not even flood plain) which is the same as all of Globeville. In this case, we had an evacuation plan in the unlikely event of a 100 year flood."
In response, the CVC, along with eleven other organizations, sent a letter (embedded below) to Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver City Council decrying the decision and requesting recourse and guidance from the city to make sure that the tiny home residents are not made homeless once again because of a surprise bureaucratic move.
“This denial comes 6 months to the day after we first showed this property to the city, after multiple meetings with all departments including Public Works, after significant design and planning work was put in by our team and partners donating time from multiple firms, widespread engagement with the surrounding community, and one week before we planned to begin construction on a new community house that would significantly improve the quality of life for residents of the village. It is unacceptable for the city to wait until the 11th hour to raise a nonnegotiable project-ending issue,” the letter notes.
The letter also references another permit that had been rejected for a second proposed tiny home village, this one for women and transgender occupants, on the campus of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. That rejection was made on the grounds of preserving the nature and character of a historic district.
“Public Works’ denial represents the second time in four months that a proposed tiny home village for people experiencing homelessness has been denied by the city after a lease agreement was in place with a private landowner and funding was secured from community supporters. The first denial came on a proposed Women’s Village at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church during the Landmark Preservation Review process on July 10, 2018,” the letter reads.
Given these frustrations, the letter makes some demands of the city, which the CVC also outlined in this info-graphic:
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In response to Westword's request for more information about Denver Public Works's decision, the department's spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn wrote in an email, "The velocity of water, depth of water, and debris that could potentially flow through this site make it an unsuitable location for the tiny homes village and present significant property damage and life/safety concerns. Given the speed at which flooding could occur if a big storm were to stall over the area, we’re concerned people would not have time to evacuate. Nighttime flooding presents additional risks because residents are likely sleeping which increases chances of missed warning."
Kuhn added that the city is trying to find a new spot for the tiny home village. "The city is working as quickly as possible to help the Beloved Community team identify a new site while also exploring whether they can stay on their existing site a bit longer than January. The Mayor is a strong supporter of the Beloved Community and is hopeful we can find a solution quickly."
Below is the letter sent by the Colorado Village Collaborative: