Controversy no stranger to Kiowa duplex project

       In the controversial history of the West Kiowa Street duplex development, one of the hardest facts to determine is where it actually is.
       “There are multiple plats and surveys,” said Brett Veltman, a city planner who has dealt with the project's building permit issues since it came across his desk in 2006. “It's always difficult in older areas to get true numbers.”

A wide-angle view shows the existing duplex property in the 3300 block of West Kiowa. The city says the parking on adjacent lots (as seen here) is not allowed. At right is the alley the developer reconfigured. Richard White, whose property is just south of the alley, contends that the collected dirt near the first duplex driveway demonstrates that the alley is not draining properly.
Westside Pioneer photo

       An effort to pin that down - at least in part - has recently been initiated on behalf of Rick and Pat Shannon, property owners of the one-acre parcel in the 3300 block of West Kiowa. An application for a replat by hired consultant Richard Mariotti will be a featured item at a public meeting Wednesday, Oct. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the downstairs room at the Lighthouse Temple, 111 N. 32nd St. The idea is to subdivide four of the six lots so that each duplex unit becomes its own lot, according to the notice sent out by city planner Steve Tuck.
       Affected would be the two duplexes a Shannon builder completed about two years ago (3325 and 3329 W. Kiowa), as well as two lots just west of them that are graded but empty. If the city approves the application, it will become the survey of record, Mariotti explained.
       The replat would benefit the developer by making it possible to sell each unit separately, Tuck pointed out in an interview.
       It's unknown how far the meeting/survey will go toward resolving the issues the development has created for the neighborhood. One concern is that the two lots the replat leaves out are those that have triggered the most controversy - Lot 9 on the eastern end, which has a Garden of the Gods-type rock formation that the developer previously cut into; and Lot 4 on the western end, which may encroach on a property with a house just west of it, according to past allegations by the resident there.
       Among the most vocally opposed of the development's neighbors are Richard and Shirley White, who live just south of the property in a house facing onto Pikes Peak Avenue. Shirley herself has lived there since 1952. Richard thinks that by focusing on just the interior lots (5-8) developers have a better chance of getting survey approval from the city, thus providing a precedent they can use later for the two tougher lots. “He [Shannon] wants [City] Land Use to say this is right so he can go to Veltman and say, 'I want my permits,'” White said.
       However, Tuck and Veltman separately insisted that the city welcomes viewpoints that will help it make a good decision, and that's what the meeting is all about.
       In an e-mail exchange, Mariotti declined (at least until the meeting) to address another White charge - that the survey continues a survey mistake - favorable to the developers - setting the lot widths at 50 feet when a pre-development survey (from 1998) indicates an overall distance shortage between 33rd Street and Red Rock Avenue. By law that should equally reduce each of those same-sized lots to less than 50 feet, White claims.
       The Kiowa project was a political hot potato in 2007, including two meetings before City Council and follow-up sessions with high-level city staff. The issues basically grew out of the Shannons' decision to use a still-legal plat from the year 1889 and fit duplexes onto five of its lots and a house on its sixth in a way that would require chipping away part of a Garden of the Gods-type rock formation to make room.
       Several residents argued against the project at the time, including complaints that the development hillside overlay zone was being ignored and the large, tall stucco- sided dwellings were incompatible with the older, predominantly single-family neighborhood around it. But Veltman and other city officials said compatibility was not a factor - Tuck agrees - and that the site didn't have any hillside features, other than the rock formation. Regarding that natural feature, the city issued a stop-work against the developer in February 2007 when it was found he had been chipping on the rock without a permit.
       Another matter the city has had to address with the owners and their builder is the design of the alley, which had to be reconfigured to allow drainage as well as access from Red Rock Avenue to the garages behind the duplexes.
       The alley work affected the Whites and the neighbor next to them, because the level had to be raised several feet above their own retaining walls along the alley. White complained this week that the alley still doesn't drain properly, but Veltman said it has passed city inspection.
       White is also unhappy with the city survey for the alley work. It states that White's and his neighbor's walls are in the alley right of way, which he said is inaccurate. The project has continued to make waves in recent months. Earlier this year, the Westside Pioneer learned that people were living in at least one of the duplexes without the city having issued a certificate of occupancy. And, this week Veltman said he would have to visit the property after being told that residents of the duplexes have been regularly parking on the unbuilt lots. He said such use is not allowed. (The building permit for Lots 7 and 8 also states that Shannon's other lots were supposed to be mulched and reseeded if not built on right away.)

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