Longform

The Village People

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"It's like watching Patton's Third Army march through Europe," says Ward. "This is not a city, it's another country. You have to deal with them through the state department."

If Greenwood Village has a General Patton, it's Freda Poundstone, the city's former mayor, whom many believe is orchestrating the annexation drive from behind the scenes. Greenwood Village's adversaries--including almost all of the elected officials in county government--charge that the city is on a mission to grab control of not just tax revenue, but also future decisions regarding traffic management in Arapahoe County, the number-one issue for most of the county's almost 500,000 residents.

"They want to keep traffic out of their pristine village," says Ward. "They want more traffic on Arapahoe Road. That's their goal--to push it out of their city. You'll have transportation improvements designed by them, for them, to get all the peasants out of the way so they can drive their BMWs to work."

But Greenwood Village officials insist they're the sole local government with the ability to manage the Southern California-style gridlock that's now commonplace on county roads. With the city's 3 percent sales tax, they say, they can raise $200 million from the annexed area over the next ten years and spend it to expand Arapahoe Road and other streets.

"So far, we're the only player who has offered a road plan," says Greenwood Village City Councilman Jim Underhill. "No one else has suggested our road plan is not needed."

The county may need roads, but Centennial's backers wonder what Greenwood Village plans to drive down them--and whether Freda Poundstone will be leading the way. Poundstone, who earns $50,000 as Greenwood Village's official lobbyist, frequently has lunch or dinner with councilmembers. She's also serving on the town's annexation committee and has met with property owners in the areas Greenwood Village wants to annex, even walking door-to-door to gather signatures on annexation petitions.

"I know Freda Poundstone is behind the annexation," says former Greenwood Village city councilman Neil Macey. "She's power-hungry, and Greenwood Village is being greedy."

But Poundstone's colleagues on the annexation committee insist that she is just one player among many. "Mrs. Poundstone is a very distinguished citizen of our city," says Underhill. "She's on the annexation committee because we value her opinions. Anybody who suggests otherwise is slinging mud."

Underhill rejects the notion that Poundstone is manipulating the Greenwood Village council from behind the scenes, or that the annexation drive is her creation. "It's absurd to suggest this is one person's idea," says the councilman. "These ideas don't spring fully formed out of anybody's head."

"I would be shocked if she wasn't behind the whole thing," responds Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney. "She wields enormous power in Greenwood Village."

The 72-year-old Poundstone, one of the Republican Party's most prolific fundraisers, has been a controversial figure in Colorado since the 1970s. In the early part of that decade, Denver was in an uproar over court-mandated school busing to achieve racial integration; at the time, there were unincorporated suburbs on several sides of Denver. After Denver annexed those areas, the schools became part of the Denver school system. Worried at the prospect of having their children bused into inner-city neighborhoods, many parents fled deep into the suburbs. And Poundstone--then a little-known lobbyist who represented liquor-store owners and other business interests--seized on that fear to rally voters.

She campaigned tirelessly, pushing a constitutional amendment that would forever prohibit Denver from annexing land without a vote of the entire county from which it wanted to annex. "She went door-to-door and said the blacks are coming, but she used a different word," says one Greenwood Village political insider who crossed swords with Poundstone. (During the current controversy, Poundstone has refused to talk to the media, and she did not return repeated telephone calls from Westword.)

The measure passed easily in 1974 and quickly became known as the Poundstone Amendment. Denver's only annexation since then came in 1988, when Adams County voters gave the okay for the city to acquire the land for Denver International Airport. But while Denver's growth has been cut off, the area around the core city has been Balkanized into more than a dozen suburbs.

If Greenwood Village's planned annexation had to be approved by voters in all of Arapahoe County, it would very likely fail; the town is eyed with suspicion by many people who live outside its boundaries. But the limitations Poundstone hung on Denver don't apply in this case: To annex the area, Greenwood Village simply must win approval from a majority of the 8,000 residents in the neighborhood it has targeted.

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Stuart Steers
Contact: Stuart Steers