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    Irate residents besiege council
    Photo by Noah Bryant
    Meadowlark neighborhood resident Bill Wagne, right, flanked by other angry residents, protests a Colorado Christian University housing plan July 29.

    By LeRoy Standish
    Sentinel and Transcript Newspapers

       A convoy of minivans shuttled six members of the City Council and the mayor west on Alameda Avenue then north to a house on South Cody Street. As the vans pulled up with their side doors sliding open, the chanting, the raising of signs and the tour began.

    "Lakewood defines Al-Qaeda as a family too, No Dorms," read the 2-by-3 foot sign held by one man. A person next to him held another: "If it's a family, who is head of household?"

    It was the Colorado Christian University's attempt to show off some of the homes its students will be living in this coming semester, but the tour was interrupted by angry residents. Residents living in the West Alameda Heights and the Meadowlark neighborhoods, which border the university, 180 S. Garrison St., are upset because the city's zoning codes allow for as many unrelated people to live under the same roof as there are habitable rooms.

    The code legally allows 10 students to live together in the homes toured by the City Council on July 29. But that is too many students, too many cars, too much of a burden on the neighborhood, say residents.

    "That's many too many," said Jeane Duffy, who lives a few doors down from the rental home. "I just don't like to see the neighborhood go downhill like this."

    The residents of these quiet middle-class neighborhoods say the homes, if rented out to college students, are dormitories, and therefore, under current city code, are not allowed in single-family residential neighborhoods. The city has maintained its position that the homes are not dormitories.

    The city's definition of a dormitory is: "A building containing living and sleeping facilities for students of a college or a university and which may contain study areas and/or shared kitchen/dining facilities."

    One home on the tour was
    on South Flower Street. As Brian Bissell, vice president of CCU, opened the front door, Mayor Steve Burkholder took a moment to explain why he was touring
    the homes.

    "I wanted to see what the houses looked like," Burkholder said. "I am not here to make any decisions."

    While Burkholder and his fellow councilors toured, City Attorney Roger Noonan sifted through seven questions residents submitted to the city. The questions ask why the homes are not considered dorms if they are housing students. They ask for clarification on the definitions of a dormitory, a household and whether, if the code were changed to restrict the number of occupants in a home, the homes currently occupied by students would be affected or just grandfathered in.

    The answers to those questions will be presented during an Aug. 19 study session, said the mayor.

    "There is something really wrong with the zoning if there is no mention of the numbers (of people allowed to live in the home)," said Celeste Fleming, a neighborhood resident. She followed the entourage into each of the three homes toured, taking pictures every step of the way.

    As the group left the Flower Street home, shouts of "no dorms" came from the residents holding signs curbside. As Councilor Mike Stevens came down the walk, he smiled at Vince Harris, the city's manager of development and review, and mentioned to him that the neighbors are very involved.

    "And the guy said you think this is funny,'" Stevens said of one man holding a sign. Stevens went on to tell the man: "You don't have to be hostile."

    Kate Horan stepped into the confrontation. "Just because we are shouting no dorms doesn't mean we are hostile," she said.

    The nose-to-nose confrontation dissipated when Stevens returned to the minivan and moved off to the next home. As the van motored down the street, Horan was still upset. "Molholm has always been a wonderful neighborhood with a wonderful reputation, and they are quickly going downhill," she said. "Single-family housing should be single-family."

    Afterward, Stevens said, "I am a neighborhood activist myself, so don't try to intimidate me they got no reason to get belligerent, because we are trying to do our job."

    The last stop on the tour was a home on West Bayaud Avenue. The home has a checkered past, according to some neighbors, who say CCU students used to live there and created a blight. Bissell said the school never had an association with the house.

    As soon as the vans came to a stop on Bayaud Avenue, the screen door next door opened and a visibly distressed Linda Housley emerged. She had pictures of the ramshackle house before it was bought and renovated.

    The pictures showed couches, lamps, chairs and garbage ringing the front lawn like a row of bushes. She told stories of loud music, laundry hanging in the trees, beer bottles smashed in the streets and strangers coming onto her property and striking up conversations with her 4-year-old grandson.

    "It was always a sea of evolving faces," Housley said. "I never knew if it was a stranger, a neighbor or a visitor. The kids would get home at 1, 2, 3 in the morning, slamming their car doors and talking in the street. This is what I had to live next-door to for six years."

    Residents here are circulating a petition asking the city to "enforce the current zoning ordinance that prohibits use of houses in 2-R zoning which have the transient nature of a dormitory and lack a sense of permanency." The petition concludes by asking "the city to consider a numeric limitation on non-related individuals permitted to live in a single-family house."

    Barbara Green Martin and Cheryl Wise, the Ward 2 councilwomen who represent the area, did not attend the CCU-sponsored tour.

    Published Aug. 1, 2002

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