Longform

The Village People

Page 3 of 6

The irony of Poundstone's involvement in a massive annexation--exactly the kind she railed against over twenty years ago as a champion of the suburbs--isn't lost on Arapahoe County's civic leaders.

"This is an inherent contradiction with Greenwood's whole foundation, which was to block the growth of Denver," says Brian Vogt, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. "That's what plunges this whole thing into soap-opera land."

And Poundstone can relish her role every time she drives to her Greenwood Village home. She lives in an expansive red-brick house on a quiet street with a familiar name: Poundstone Place.

The street arcs over a hill that gives residents sweeping views of the Front Range and the Denver Technological Center. Poundstone can sit on her deck and look out over the dozens of buildings in the Tech Center that help supply the town she once led with millions of dollars in tax revenue, while keeping residential property taxes among the lowest in the area. Greenwood Village uses the property taxes it collects from the Tech Center, as well as a $4-per-month tax on each of the thousands of people who work there, to help bump up the town's budget to $30 million. That buys public services that are the envy of metro Denver.

Police cars constantly patrol Greenwood Village's spotless streets--officials there say the police will respond to any call within three minutes--and rows of brand-new police cars sparkle in the sun in front of police headquarters. Residents are reimbursed up to $500 per year if they enroll their children in sports programs outside the town. An elaborate network of bike paths runs through the village, and every street seems to be lavishly landscaped with pine trees and flower beds. The handsome brick city hall, remodeled for $5 million in cash just over a year ago, sits next to a lush park built around a duck pond.

But the most visible aspects of the town's civic prosperity are the ubiquitous red-brick sound walls that line many streets. Working in conjunction with homeowners' associations, Greenwood Village helps subsidize construction of those walls. They're often built along roads with little traffic, seemingly to guarantee that every resident will enjoy absolute quiet at all times.

While the city council has succeeded in keeping Greenwood Village quiet to the point of boredom, the antics of the city council itself have kept residents entertained for years. When they're not suing each other for slander or spreading rumors about opponents' sexual shenanigans, councilmembers have berated each other as idiots and uneducated housewives. Tales of private investigators being hired to poke around in a councilman's trash still circulate, and more than one councilmember has invoked the memory of Adolf Hitler when criticizing his opponent.

In the Eighties, the Greenwood Village City Council was in a constant uproar, divided into pro-growth and anti-growth factions, and the sniping and backstabbing among its members spawned grand-jury investigations and libel suits.

In 1987, Poundstone began pushing the council to annex property along Arapahoe Road. Two councilmembers, Myrna Poticha and Sonny Wiegand, questioned the proposal, noting that under the deal the city had reached with property owners, future developers would be able to bypass normal zoning procedures. Poticha and Wiegand suspected some of then-mayor Poundstone's lobbying customers might own property along Arapahoe Road, and they demanded that the mayor release a list of her clients to prove she had no conflicts of interest.

When Poundstone refused to comply with that request, the two councilmembers continued to allege possible backroom deals and abuses of power. Several council sessions ended abruptly when an angry Poundstone gaveled the meetings to a close and stormed out.

After Wiegand wrote and circulated a highly critical pamphlet of Poundstone called "Of Queens and Carrots," Poundstone filed a $2 million libel suit against him. That case was eventually settled out of court, with Poundstone agreeing to pay Wiegand an undisclosed amount of money. Greenwood Village voters approved the controversial annexation in November 1987.

But development issues continued to bedevil Greenwood Village. The town was divided over how much new construction to allow in the Denver Tech Center (most of the Tech Center south of Belleview lies in Greenwood Village; the smaller portion north of Belleview is in Denver) and how many homes to permit in the upscale Preserve subdivision. Former councilwoman Cozette Matthews frequently sparred with the pro-development Poundstone.

"She referred to me as 'just a housewife,' with the implication I shouldn't be on council," recalls Matthews. "She was very insulting. She called me at home and asked what kind of education I'd had. She was trying to intimidate me."

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Stuart Steers
Contact: Stuart Steers