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RedPeak to share drawings of Highland development tonight, neighbors grow restless

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Tonight is the night RedPeak Properties will finally release its draft drawing of three five-story apartment buildings it plans to build near Highland Square that have caused so much neighborhood uproar.

Of course, last Wednesday was supposed to be that night, as well. That meeting was delayed until tonight so that RedPeak CEO Mike Zoellner could attend.

After other members of the design advisory committee have a chance to view the plans, Councilwoman Susan Shepherd says she will announce her response.

Many neighbors surrounding the proposed development just north of 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard -- most notably members of the No High Rises in West Highland group -- believe the buildings will be too tall and bulky for the neighborhood and will create parking and congestion issues. Shepherd has said she hopes RedPeak resolves some of these issues on its own, perhaps by agreeing to build no higher than three stories, especially on the parcels that border Meade Street and Moncrieff Place. Shepherd, No High Rises, local merchants and the West Highland Neighborhood Association will find out tonight at the design advisory board meeting if RedPeak listened to Shepherd's requests.

Shepherd would rather not pursue legislative action, such as a re-zoning of the property, which could limit the height of the buildings to two or three stories. Opponents of the project believe the zoning assigned to these parcels, which allows buildings up to five stories high, is incorrect and inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood.

Shepherd stated well over a month ago that she would reveal her next step on December 16. But she has delayed that announcement several times to more carefully weigh her options.

In the meantime, neighbors have grown increasingly impatient as the date when RedPeak would like to begin construction grows closer. This frustration became uncomfortably apparent last Monday night, when Shepherd was visited at her home by two of constituents wanting to discuss the RedPeak development. The discussion escalated rather quickly into a shouting match.

According to Shepherd, she was watching television with her family at about 7:30 p.m. when two women -- one who she recognized, one she didn't -- knocked on her door. Shepherd said she invited the women in rather than asking them to schedule a time in her work schedule in an attempt to be accessible.

"It started off typically enough, but it quickly, quickly devolved," Shepherd says. "They were just attacking and berating everything to do with the entire history of this project going back several years. They were attacking former Councilman (Rick) Garcia, the city, RedPeak, (project architect) Brad Buchanan, (property owner) Tom Wooten, and going around and around and rehashing a lot of things that were said at the first public meeting that we had back in November."

Shepherd says the entire discussion occurred in front of her husband and four-year-old son, who later in the week asked Shepherd if "the mean people are coming back." According to Shepherd, the women asked her to pursue legislative action, demanded progress and even threatened her position on city council.

"And then they all of the sudden just said, 'We have all the signatures we need to turn in for a recall and we're ready to do it,'" she goes on. "At which point I lost control and I said, 'Get out of here. How dare you come into my house and threaten me?'"

In the moments that followed, Shepherd says her and her husband then repeatedly told the women to leave the house, although they never touched them. Once outside, Shepherd says the women continued to argue with her husband. Shepherd didn't file a police report, but did provide descriptions of the women to a detective working on the case. Shepherd says police patrol in her neighborhood has increased.

Westword was unable to contact the other women involved in the argument.

"I never, ever saw a sign of remorse," Shepherd says of the women. "I believe to this day if someone interviewed them, they would not believe that what they did was inappropriate or wrong. I didn't hear an apology. I didn't hear a 'Sorry for disturbing you.' I find that just appalling."

Laura Goode, founder of the No High Rises group, says she was visited by the women who argued with Shepherd later that night; she insists that they were visibly shaken. Goode was disappointed the women, one of whom she knows from community meetings, went to Shepherd's home.

"It's like Jerry Springer in Northwest Denver," Goode says. "I think it's a bunch of stupidity. The fact that they would go to her house at night is inappropriate. It's an inappropriate place and time."

Goode said she noticed a change in the No High Rises members' tone at a community update meeting the Thursday before Shepherd was visited by the women.

"In the past, they were kind of like, 'We're happy you're doing good work,'" Goode says. "This time, they were angry. They started coming after me. They started yelling at me and telling me I wasn't doing enough."

Goode says she isn't concerned about how this argument might affect her cause, because the No High Rises group had nothing to do with it. But Shepherd suggests that the unwanted visit might impact potential legislative action.

"I won't deny the fact that several of my colleagues have expressed extreme dismay and concern about the tactics of some of the neighbors regarding these issues," she says. "I think it's possible. You're supposed to be in a quasi-judicial mode and you're supposed to be just weighing the facts. It's hard for people to put this out of their mind. It will always be hard for me to put this issue out of my mind."

Among the most disturbed was City Council President Chris Nevitt, who on Friday released a letter expressing his dismay about the visit Shepherd received. Part of his letter read:

Yes, as elected leaders we signed up to be in the spotlight and we accept being at the center of controversy and conflict as an occupational hazard. We understand how passionate people can be about the issues before us, that our decisions will invariably make unhappy some of the very people we have sworn to serve, and that, regardless of our decisions, we have a continuing obligation to hear all our citizens' concerns. But to expect a hearing at our homes, uninvited, at night, on a weekend -- this is too much to expect.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Susan Shepherd and neighborhood association make moves in Highland development battle."

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