In West Washington Park, a battle over monster duplexes and neighborhood character

Will a "Flintstone House" like the one on the left be coming soon to West Washington Park?

The battle over big, ugly multiplexes in Denver’s older neighborhoods has made its way south from Highland to West Washington Park, where a meeting last night pitted rezoning proponents against residents who don't want the area to be permanently altered in the name of progress.

A few months ago, Westword brought you "Hideous Houses of Highland," the story of the rezoning fight in the West Highland and Sloan’s Lake neighborhoods, where some residents fought to prohibit developers from replacing single-family homes with multiplexes. The residents won, but only after a bitter feud with neighbors who disagreed and a Denver City Council meeting that stretched well past midnight.

Now, the same struggle is brewing in West Washington Park. Like their fellow Denverites to the north, many residents in this section of town want to preserve the quaint, historic bungalows and close-knit vibe of their neighborhood. Watching small houses get scraped and replaced by monstrous $750,000 duplexes makes their stomachs churn. “It’s not where I want to live,” says John Moran, a resident of the area for eleven years.

Councilman Chris Nevitt campaigned on promises that he would fight for a rezoning, and he’s now trying to deliver. He’s proposing legislation to rezone an area bordered by Clarkson, Downing, Mississippi and Cedar to allow only single-family homes. And for the area between Clarkson and Lincoln, he wants an eighteen-month moratorium on “lot assemblage,” meaning that developers can keep building duplexes, but only if they already own 6,000 square-foot lots to fit them on.

At last night's get-together at the Christian Indian Center on South Pearl Street, more than two dozen people showed up to hear about the rezoning proposal, and most of them seemed to favor it. In fact, Nevitt said a recent survey showed that about 76 percent of residents backed the plan. Still, there were some vocal dissenters.

Mac Phail, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1994, called the proposal a “mandated government imposition” that would infringe on his property rights and, at least temporarily, reduce property values. If residents want to sell to a developer who will pay more for the chance to scrape the house and build a duplex, they should be allowed to do that, he reasoned. Especially in bad economic times.

In the end, he predicted that West Washington Park’s rezoning effort would be just as tough as the one in Sloan’s Lake. “It’s gonna be a battle,” he said. -- Lisa Rab

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts