A lawsuit filed by five Park Hill homeowners over a proposed city-sanctioned homeless camp in the neighborhood was dismissed Wednesday afternoon, because the plaintiffs are moving to another venue to try and stop it.
But that appeal — before Denver’s Board of Adjustment for Zoning — won’t be heard before June 1, when the camp is set to open.
Following a morning hearing in the case, Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones dismissed without prejudice the May 6 lawsuit filed by Kurt Monigle, Dave Rodman, Jean Baptiste Varnier, Justin Lacov and Blair Taylor.
The homeowners’ complaint voiced concerns over safety, a lack of public input and the extension of the program at a time the coronavirus pandemic appears to be easing, among other things. The defendants were the city, the church and its lead pastor Nathan Adams, and Colorado Village Collaborative, the nonprofit that would manage the camp.
CVC said earlier it hopes to start operating the camp, along with another on the campus of Regis University in northwest Denver, on June 1. Both are planned to operate through the end of the year. The two locations would replace two existing camps in church parking lots in Uptown and Cap Hill, which have operated since December and will be dismantled at the end of this month.
Initially, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the establishment of the camp. Last week, however, the homeowners asked the court to instead stay their lawsuit, so that they could appeal the zoning permit that allows the camp to the Board of Adjustment.
As a result, Jones shifted the focus of the planned Wednesday hearing from whether a restraining order should be issued to whether the case should be stayed, as the plaintiffs wanted, or dismissed, as the defendants requested.
Heather Anderson Thomas and Douglas Baier of Robinson & Henry, the attorneys for the homeowners, said at the hearing that the city changed an ordinance after the lawsuit was filed, making an appeal to the Board of Adjustment possible. Denver city attorney Josh Roberts, however, disputed that, saying the plaintiffs always had that option.
Thomas said her clients don’t actually expect the Board of Adjustment to rule in their favor, and that they will likely return to court. That’s part of the reason she argued that the case should be stayed. Judge Jones, however, wrote in his dismissal that he did so because of “plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies.”
In the meantime, there’s nothing to prevent the camp from being established June 1. Roberts said that the city has already issued a permit allowing CVC to establish the camp.
“The permits are valid pending the appeal, so the CVC has the permit and may execute on it,” Roberts said.
Thomas said she and her clients only learned Monday that the city had already issued a permit for the camp.
Austin Keithler, technical director for the Board of Adjustment, told BusinessDen Wednesday afternoon that two appeals have been filed alleging that the zoning permit for the camp was approved in error. A date for the hearings hasn’t been set, he said, but will likely be in late June or July.
CVC Executive Director Cole Chandler confirmed for BusinessDen that the organization’s original timetable is still on.
“We are moving forward as planned,” he said in an email.
The Park Hill camp would have 33 tents and fit up to 40 people, Chandler has said previously. As with the existing camps in Uptown and Cap Hill, it would be fenced-in and staffed 24 hours a day, and drugs and alcohol would be banned.
CVC is represented by attorneys Thomas Snyder of Kutak Rock and Lauren Rafter and Shannon MacKenzie of Colorado Poverty Law Project. The church and its pastor are presented by Richard Marsh of Marsh Law.