LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A battle between Colorado Christian University and the City of Lakewood over off-campus student housing has been brewing for nearly 20 years. Neighbors who are worried they will lose their homes are now reaching out to Contact Denver7 to tell their stories.
To find her happy place, Lenore Herskovitz just walks out her backdoor.
"I love it. I mean, I it's great. We have a ton of rabbits around here, and my neighbor's garden is beautiful," she said with a smile.
But from that same spot, she said, she can see the fear that is keeping her up at night: her next door neighbor and landlord, Colorado Christian University.
"I'm worried about being homeless and having to find a new place to live," she said.
Giving us a tour of the street where she has lived for 26 years, she points to the side Colorado Christian University has already bought.
"They bought up that whole block, all of it," she said. "And they or their employees own most of this side, too. They've eradicated an entire neighborhood," said Herskovitz.
Herskovitz said most of the homes are now off-campus student housing.
"A lot of the neighbors are concerned about campus creep," said Charley Able, a Lakewood city councilman for Ward 1, who said this is part of a complicated, 20-year legal battle.
This year, he said, Lakewood's City Council restored the zoning code to limit off-campus student housing and prohibit the university from
owning and renting properties in residential neighborhoods.
"It's the integrity of our zoning ordinance that is at stake," said Able. "We would hear a rezoning if they if they wish, but they don't want file for a rezoning. They want to try to change our zoning in district court."
In June, Colorado Christian University sued the City of Lakewood. While CCU did not respond to Contact Denver7's request for comment, their lawsuit claims their "constitutional rights are threatened," arguing that the city's measure "is not reasonable, but is arbitrary, targeted at CCU."
Herskovitz said it seems evident that CCU wants to expand. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order that maintains the status quo, but neighbors said the University plans to move students into the duplexes. As more students move in, Herskovitz fears she and others will be forced out.
"I'm worried about the integrity of the neighborhood. I'm worried about losing my home. Those are big worries," she said.
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