Controversy over a proposed medical center was front in center at a Denver city council meeting on Monday. More than 50 people spoke out for and against a proposal to rezone church property in a northwest Denver neighborhood.
The public comment and council debate continued well past midnight, in all it lasted more than four hours. Ultimately council members voted no on the proposal to rezone the land. It required 10 votes to pass but failed with 8 council members voting yes and 4 voting no.
The Emmaus Lutheran Church, located near 32nd Ave. and Irving Street, is behind the proposal. Church leaders wanted to divide the land to create a medical care facility, complete with a variety of health care providers and an extended hour clinic.
“It’s a great fit. The school that we had on site that was open for 80 years closed 3 or 4 years ago and now we have this underutilized piece of land in north Denver,” said Neil Neudorff, president of the church congregation.
Neighbors say the development would be the largest single use commercial building in West Highland. They worry the medical center would bring an increase in traffic and would take away already limited parking.
“I am really opposed because it’s such a dramatic upzoning for this particular area, right around where we are is really mostly residential and it’s a very old neighborhood so the streets are really, really narrow,” said Jenny Davies, a West Highland resident.
A spokesperson for the church said they have made concessions in an attempt to work with residents. Changes include decreasing the size of land to be rezoned, lowering the building height and limiting clinic hours. The proposal includes also a parking lot with 77 spots that would be available to the community on nights and weekends.
West Highland Neighborhood Association encouraged residents to write letters to council members. Council chambers were packed Monday night as residents and church members addressed city officials.
“It’s way out of line for this neighborhood when I bought this house I bought it because I liked the area,” said Bertrum Sanchez, who has lived near the church for 29 years. “It’s going to ruin this neighborhood.”