Denver project by Metropolitan Homes is underway and now includes 41 condos, 25 townhomes
By Jon Murray | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: April 12, 2017 at 5:00 am | UPDATED: April 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm
A group of east Denver neighborhood activists have spent more than two years fighting a zoning change that allowed for a three-story residential development near Crestmoor Park.
Their challenge has played out without success before the City Council, Denver District Court and, last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals.
But the plaintiffs’ attorney, Greg Kerwin, says he is preparing a request for the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case as a last-ditch attempt to reverse a zoning decision that his group sees as improper.
“If this court decision stands, Denver residents will have no protection from arbitrary zoning changes that alter the character of their neighborhoods,” Kerwin said. “The neighbors will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to review the important issues this case presents about the fairness of Denver’s rezoning process.”
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Homes considers last Thursday’s unanimous appeals court decision as sufficient legal assurance to begin building the largest component of the $32 million project, a condo building.
The plans for the 2.3-acre site at 195 S. Monaco Parkway, the former site of Mt. Gilead Church, sparked one of the most passionate zoning fights during Denver’s recent boom years. Redevelopment there — with single-family homes predominant to the west of the busy thoroughfare and denser development to the east — has been controversial since developer Peter Kudla bought the site for $1.6 million.
When the council approved the zoning change in June 2015, after a five-hour hearing, Kudla planned 25 townhomes and a three-story apartment building with 50 units, the result of some concessions. In recent months, he has changed the apartment component to condominiums, with 41 for-sale units.
“We are ready to break ground June 1,” Kudla said. Metropolitan Homes could open sales of the condos as soon as later this week.
“Everything’s ready to go — we were ready to go in August,” he added. But the legal uncertainty from the neighbors’ challenge resulted in an eight-month delay, during which Metropolitan has focused on building several townhome buildings. The developer expects to complete the first of 25 townhomes in mid-May, with the condos to be finished in July 2018.
The legal limbo scared off lenders, prompting Metropolitan to decide to self-finance the condos, he said. “No bank would touch us with the pending lawsuit in front of the court of appeals.”
Kerwin’s group, which includes nearby residents Keith Whitelaw and Katie McCrimmon, sought judicial review of the council’s 8-4 rezoning decision in a case they filed against the council, the Planning Board, city planning director Brad Buchanan and Cedar Metropolitan LLC, the developer’s entity.
In the 33-page ruling last week, a three-judge appeals panel unanimously rejected the due process violations alleged by the plaintiffs.
Their contentions included that the council misapplied city plans and zoning criteria, were unduly influenced by lobbyists, and neglected to consider traffic safety and parking concerns.
Judge Daniel M. Taubman wrote that “competent evidence in the record supports the City Council’s rezoning decision such that the neighbors have failed to rebut the presumption of integrity, honesty and impartiality in favor of the City Council’s decision.”
Kerwin has cited Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman’s frequent e-mail correspondence with Metropolitan lobbyist Sean Maley before the vote. But Taubman’s opinion echoed the earlier district court ruling in noting that Susman asserted her impartiality several times and ultimately voted against the rezoning.
This week, Kerwin said in response to the latest ruling: “The developer and its lobbyists controlled this rezoning process, and city officials admitted in court that the Planning Board and City Council do not consider traffic and parking problems when evaluating a proposed rezoning.”
The appeals decision said those issues were broached during the council’s debate over the rezoning, but Kerwin said the court “papered over that issue.”