On a recent Monday afternoon, an excavator lifted and dumped heaps of dirt just west of Interstate 25 as a gas station car wash sat open but unused a few feet away.
This unremarkable scene in Castle Pines is the unlikely source of three ongoing court cases and a fourth case that just ended — a 3-year-old car wash controversy that has come to include allegations of government censorship, favoritism and racism.
It began in 2016, when a company called Twin Star Energy asked the City of Castle Pines for permission to expand its gas station at 7610 N. Debbie Lane onto a neighboring open lot. The city denied that request because its zoning laws prohibit new car-centric businesses in the area of I-25 and Castle Pines Parkway, with the goal of making it more pedestrian-friendly.
Then, in 2020, a company called HSDevelopment proposed building a car wash on that same empty lot. The city’s planning commission unanimously approved the idea, finding that the car wash would be an indoor business, not a car-focused one, and therefore legal.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” Commissioner Seth Katz said then. “When I think, ‘Is this what I want to see in my city the second I get off the highway,’ I think my answer is no.
“That being said, it’s a right that the property owner has and I don’t find anything that is in violation of our ordinances and statutes. Therefore, whether I like it or not is irrelevant.”
The vote frustrated Twin Star for several reasons. Commissioners acknowledged that most public comments they had received were opposed to the project but residents were not allowed to comment at the meeting. Twin Star also saw bigotry in the disapproval of its plan, which included an expanded car wash, followed by approval of a different car wash.
Twin Star Energy is affiliated with K&G Petroleum in Littleton, which operates 70 gas stations across Colorado, including that 7-Eleven on Debbie Lane, according to K&G.
The managing member of Twin Star is Preet Puri, who was born in India. HSDevelopment is owned by a Travis and Kendra Hossfeld of Castle Pines; Kendra said in an email she is Hispanic.
“At the public meeting on the car wash, the principals of HSDevelopment went out of their way to boast that they are ‘Colorado natives’ and native members of the Castle Pines community,” Twin Star wrote in a lawsuit three weeks after the May 2021 vote. “Twin Star, as the city knows, is not operated by ‘Colorado natives.’ Its principal is of Asian descent.”
That same lawsuit accused the city of trying to “assist Twin Star’s competitors and silence Twin Star.” Twin Star operates a small car wash beside its 7-Eleven, which it expects will be put out of business by the new 100-foot-long tunnel wash and one dozen vacuum stations.
Because the two businesses will share an easement off Castle Pines Parkway, Twin Star also foresees the new car wash causing traffic and safety issues at its gas station.
To prevent that, Twin Star embarked on a winding and thus far unsuccessful journey through the local courts. Meanwhile, the car wash project has changed hands and is being developed by an Arizona company, Cobblestone Denver PropCo, which is doing grading work now.
Twin Star’s first lawsuit was filed in Douglas County District Court in mid-2021, transferred to a federal court, thrown out by a federal judge and returned to Douglas County, then reopened by the federal judge this month. A hearing is now scheduled for Aug. 21.
Its second lawsuit, filed in June, was thrown out five weeks later by a different federal judge.
Its third lawsuit, filed in Douglas County on July 10, is ongoing. Last Thursday, Judge Gary Kramer denied Twin Star’s request for an injunction halting Cobblestone’s construction.
Twin Star is represented by attorneys Gregory Tamkin and Stephen Weingold with the Dorsey & Whitney firm in Denver. They did not respond to requests to discuss the case.
Cobblestone is represented by Jonathan Bender, Jessica Smith and Aja Robbins with the Denver office of Holland & Hart, who also did not respond to requests for comment.
Correction: This story has been updated to note the ethnicity of HSDevelopment ownership.