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Denver City Council approves Welton Corridor plan, sparking fears of eminent domain


City Council hearing yes stickers.jpg
Sam Levin
Speakers at the City Council with "YES" stickers.
Mike Biselli, who is in the process of building a tech start-up in the health care industry, testified that he wants to move his business into the Welton Corridor and needs support from this kind of redevelopment effort.

"We've had people in the audience tonight clap for stagnation. Clap for stagnation!" Biselli said of the project opponents. "We are at a crossroads...not only in this community, but beyond.... We have an opportunity to do one of two things. We can stay stagnant or we can celebrate our diversity, celebrate what makes Five Points and the surrounding areas one of the most shining examples of a city and build upon it. Not push out what made Five Points Five Points, but to build on it."

Biselli, the chief marketing officer for a company that is only a few months old, lives in the San Rafael neighborhood, adjacent to Five Points. He said he sees the potential for entrepreneurs and start-ups to move into the area if they have the right development environment

He urged residents not to oppose the project "just because of some simple words: eminent domain. If we go and look at the studies and we go and look at what it says in there, these people are going to rarely use it. These people are not making it the building block of the entire process here. Let's keep that in mind."

DURA has used eminent domain three times in the last thirty years.

Jill Dorancy-Williams, who owns a property on Welton Street that was built in 1883, has lived in her property since 2000 and several years ago converted it to her office, where she works as an attorney.

Wearing a "YES" sticker, she urged council to vote for the redevelopment plan, saying that at this point, the neighborhood just needs it.

"I moved to the Five Points area because of its cultural heritage, because of its proximity to downtown and because it reminded me of New York," she said. "And I stayed in the Five Points area because I had vision."

She continued, "I recognize that as a property owner, if this plan is approved, this community, my community, gains access to tax-increment financing.... It will also create opportunities for growth and development. This, too, has been used to help revitalize other important urban areas."

Jeanne Faatz image.jpeg
Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz
Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz, the only member to vote against the project, said she understands the fears of eminent domain in a final speech just before the vote.

"If I were wanting to make a further investment in a home and plan on living there in the long-term and had that hanging over me for 25 years, I would not sleep easily, and for that reason, I am not going to support this proposal tonight," she said.

Outside the City and County Building at around 10:30 p.m, a handful of property owners chatted after the vote, debating what to do next. They wondered if they could designate their homes as landmarks to try and avoid eminent domain in the future.

Paul Paul-Havrilcsak, 49, who owns two properties in the redevelopment zone and has been in the neighborhood for seventeen years, told Westword that he's pretty confident he couldn't get landmark status. He also thinks the city would want to seize his property should future developments get underway, based on its central location.

"I think I'll lose my houses," said Paul-Havrilcsak, who lives with his partner. "I've put so much into my home. I've got history here."

More from our Politics archive: "Scott Gessler: 141 registered voters aren't citizens"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.



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