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When Neighbors Attack

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The opposition didn't buy that argument. "I've lived next to Mike for the last five years, and I can unequivocally state that for the last five years, there's been a severe noise problem, and only recently, when Mike has wanted two more dogs, has there been any attempt to mitigate the noise factor," Chris Matthews told the board. "And as a professional real estate agent, I know the consequences of a property being stigmatized by environmental conditions. It causes problems with marketability in the future. Neighborhoods with gang activity, with crack activity, under difficult flight patterns -- those have stigmatized properties, and it affects their property values."

Seeing how controversial the case was, the five-member board voted, and, with the exception of Trimble, decided to conduct its deliberations in private (something its members do frequently). And when they came back on the record ten business days later, everyone but Shecter had voted to deny the exception -- despite earlier endorsements of Newbury's request by a city attorney and the division of animal control. They gave no reasons for their decision other than the request's failure to meet all five conditions. "I think the condition that wasn't met was the method by which neighbors would be protected from nuisance," says staff director Janice Tilden. "That's what they're pinning their hat on. On non-pet-related things, neighbors don't have a lot of discretion, but there is more discretion in the animal cases than others."

And that would have been that. Except that Mike Newbury and Sara Loss keep getting called into doggie court -- once because Newbury called animal control for Kramer being off-leash, and once because Loss called animal control for excessive barking by the dachshunds. Animal control is now so wary of taking calls from the block that a supervisor must give approval before an officer responds -- a rare situation, according to director Doug Kelley, who says that neighbors don't often use animal control as a retaliatory measure.

In an attempt to bring the block back together, Newbury contacted Community Mediation - Denver, a nonprofit with which the city contracts to help settle neighborhood disputes. So far, though, no other neighbors have shown an interest in joining the mediation process. For that matter, Leighton is no longer interested in joining the neighborhood, either. "I could care less if we ever live here," she says. "I'm really hurt by it."

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Amy Haimerl