Group gets new shot at 59-acre prop­erty

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kieran Ni­chol­son Kieran Ni­chol­son: 303-954-1822, kni­chol­son@den­ver­ or @kier­an­ni­chol­son

A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must tem­po­rar­ily re­frain from sell­ing a 59-acre prop­erty near the Fed­eral Cen­ter Re­gional Trans­porta­tion District rail sta­tion in Lake­wood.

The U.S. Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion can­not ac­cept bids or sell the prop­erty be­fore Oct. 16, ac­cord­ing to a rul­ing Tues­day by Judge Wil­liam J. Martinez.

The Colorado Coali­tion for the Home­less filed suit last month in fed­eral court to halt the sale of the prop­erty to a de­vel­oper, based partly on the grounds that Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment of­fi­cials had de­ter­mined that the prop­erty was un­suit­able for home­less ser­vices.

The judge’s rul­ing Tues­day is in re­sponse to a joint mo­tion filed by the Colorado Coali­tion for the Home­less and the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, which rep­re­sents the U.S. Gen­eral Ser­vice Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the HUD Depart­ment.

The GSA prop­erty, on va­cant land near the West Rail Line Fed­eral Cen­ter sta­tion near West Sixth Av­enue and Simms Street, is a for­mer land­fill site which in­cludes 15 acres con­tam­i­nated with high con­cen­tra­tions of poly­cyclic aro­matic hy­dro­car­bons, met­als, dioxin/fu­rans, pes­ti­cides and as­bestos — a po­ten­tial threat to phys­i­cal safety, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The land’s con­tam­i­na­tion was used to halt the po­ten­tial use of the prop­erty by the home­less coali­tion. The prop­erty was then put up for sale with po­ten­tial uses in­clud­ing re­tail and res­i­den­tial sites.

The judge’s rul­ing Tues­day opens the door for home­less ad­vo­cates’ in­ter­ests in the prop­erty. The home­less coali­tion ar­gued that the McKin­ney-Vento Act gives what amounts to the right of first re­fusal when fed­eral prop­er­ties are sold.

“We are pleased that Judge Martinez agreed with us that HUD’s orig­i­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion and sub­se­quent af­fir­ma­tion about the prop­erty’s ‘un­suit­abil­ity’ for home­less­ness as­sis­tance had been ar­bi­trary and capri­cious,” coali­tion CEO John Par­ven­sky said in a news re­lease. “We be­lieve that the only log­i­cal con­clu­sion that HUD can make in light of the ev­i­dence pro­vided by GSA and CCH is that the prop­erty be deemed ‘suit­able’ for de­vel­op­ment to as­sist the home­less.”

HUD has agreed to pro­vide a new “de­ter­mi­na­tion of suit­abil­ity” within 30 days of re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion from the GSA and the home­less coali­tion. The hous­ing depart­ment has a Sept. 14 dead­line to is­sue a writ­ten no­tice on its de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

CCH staff and part­ners said the prop­erty of­fers a va­ri­ety of po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties for home­less re­source de­vel­op­ment in­clud­ing sup­port­ive hous­ing, health care, well­ness ser­vices, and vo­ca­tional pro­grams.

Home­less ad­vo­cates view the par­cel as a “once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to de­velop needed af­ford­able hous­ing and ser­vices” close to the RTD Fed­eral Sta­tion light rail stop.

“We be­lieve that a tran­sit ori­ented de­vel­op­ment that pro­vides af­ford­able hous­ing and sup­port­ive ser­vices to these fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als will go far in meet­ing our goal of cre­at­ing last­ing so­lu­tions to home­less­ness in the area,” Par­ven­sky said.

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