Shepherd: Warrior for civility

District 1 Councilwoman Susan Shepherd

Denver City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd said today she is going to become “quite the warrior” for civility, in the wake of last week’s incident in her northwest Denver home last week.

Shepherd made her comments at today’s Mayor Council meeting, following comments supporting her from City Councilman Charlie Brown and Mayor Michael Hancock, who said how unfortunate it was that a shouting match erupted in Shepherd’s home from two as yet unidentified women who oppose plans for three, five-story buildings in Shepherd’s district proposed by RedPeak Properties.

“Intimidation does not work on this council,” Brown said. “It will not work.” In fact, he said, it will have just the opposite effect, adding that he opposes any downzoning of the three parcels that is being demanded by a number of Shepherd’s constituents.

Neighborhood to national breakdown

Shepherd alluded to that  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is stepping down from office following her shooting last year in Arizona and  that Sen. Mark Udall’s plea for civility tonight during President Obama’s State of the Union address.

“This highlights that public discourse, civil public discourse, is gone in this country – at all levels,” Shepherd said. “I have experienced it in a very visceral and very personal way. I am up to here with the way folks treat each other.”

She said that she has witnessed how such behavior “suppresses democracy,” in her northwest Denver district, as some people have been afraid to speak up if they have a different opinion on the RedPeak proposal.

Shepherd said several people have approached her to fight for civility at the neighborhood level all the way to the national level and said she is going to do whatever it takes to help make that happen.

“This has got to stop,” she said.

Brown commended Shepherd for meeting with RedPeak Properties, which plans the $35 million apartment buildings with about 150 units on three parcels north of West 32nd Avenue on Meade Street, Lowell Boulevard and Moncrieff Place. RedPeak has the properties under contract. Some neighbors say the buildings are too massive for the neighborhood and the parcels need to be downzoned. Shepherd, RedPeak officials and various members of the neighbors are again scheduled to meet Wednesday night. RedPeak expects to release the first drawings of the buildings at the meeting.

Brown thanked City Council President Chris Nevitt for releasing a letter supporting Shepherd following what Brown described as “abusive behavior by some neighbors” at Shepherds’s home , which took place on the evening of Jan. 16. He also thanked RedPeak and Shepherd for their efforts to work with various neighborhood groups.

Brown opposes downzoning

Brown said he opposes any downzoning, saying that the time to oppose the zoning change, when it was publicly being discussed at open meetings. In June 2010, the zoning was changed to U-MS-5 from R-4. Brown described the change as a “downzoning.” The R-4 zoning would have allowed six-story buildings on the sites.

Brown said that he hopes there are a “few rational and reasonable” people in northwest Denver that understand they need to rights of the owners of the properties.

However, members of the grassroots group No High Rises in West Highland, have repeatedly said it is their property rights being lost because of the buildings that they believe will decrease their property values and rob some of them of sunlight and views. On the other hand, academic research in other cities has shown that high-density, luxury developments tend to increase surrounding property values by making neighborhoods more vibrant and walkable. Some merchants along the popular West 32nd Avenue corridor welcome the change, while others have said they oppose it.

Hancock condemns Shepherd incident

Hancock said that Brown has a “knack for hitting the nail on the head,” and showed leadership by condemning what happened to Shepherd in her home.

“What Councilwoman Shepherd faced in her home should never occur under any circumstance,” said Hancock, noting that he was in Washington, D.C., when the incident occurred. “As an elected official or as a private citizen she has the right to feel safe and not worry about being addressed in such a manner in her own home.”

Hancock said he has met with RedPeak and neighbors and understands the issues under discussion. He said although emotions run high at time, it is crucial that people always treat each other with “decorum and respect.” He added that he that the talks will continue conversations with RedPeak and neighbors and keep both sides at the table to try to reach a compromise. He noted that he has met with both RedPeak and neighbors.

“I want to express my deepest concern and thoughts as you try to deal with that situation,” Hancock told Shepherd. “I want to let you that you know that you have the support of the city as you try to find the best possible path,” to address the proposed development.

Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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