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Lawsuit dismissed, safe outdoor camping site at neighborhood church will move forward

Park Hill United Methodist Church
Posted at 11:47 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 01:47:15-04

DENVER — A Denver judge ruled to dismiss a lawsuit filed in an attempt to block a safe outdoor camping site from going up at a neighborhood church for those experiencing homelessness.

Attorneys Heather Anderson Thomas and Douglas W. Baier filed the lawsuit on behalf of residents Kurt Monigle, Dave Rodman, Jean Baptiste-Varnier, Justin Lovac and Blair Taylorthe lawsuit against Colorado Village Collaborative, The City of Denver, Park Hill United Methodist Church, Pastor Nathan Adams and Zoning Administrator Tina Axlerad.

The safe outdoor space at Park Hill United Methodist Church is scheduled to go up in early June.

But residents claimed in the lawsuit moving into the site should be stopped because it “has not met the requirements set out by the city, pose[s] a real danger to minors and school-aged children, does not address the impact it will have on the neighborhood and displaces people from an area with available resources to an area not equipped to handle the purpose.”

Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled Wednesday that court lacks jurisdiction and the "plaintiffs by their own admission have an available administrative remedy that has not been exhausted." The order of dismissal says, "Fundamentally, a court cannot enter an order staying a case when it lacks jurisdiction over that case in the first instance."

In response to the dismissal, Colorado Village Collaborative said they are "eager to bring these Safe Outdoor Spaces to life and offer quality service and support in a neighborhood that has a rich history of building connections across dividing lines for the betterment of us all."

The organization said they have a valid permit, and they will proceed with their plan to expand safe outdoor spaces at both Regis University in early June, transition from a site at the First Baptist Church of Denver, and Park Hill United Methodist Church. The Regis and Park Hill sites would serve up to 100 people, officials have said.

"I really hope that Park Hill neighbors can hear me authentically saying that we want to be good neighbors," Cole Chandler, the executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, said previously.

Colorado Village Collaborative has run the safe camping space outside of Denver Community Church at 16th and Pearl, which opened in December with a six-month lease, and has been planning to move the site to the Park Hill church despite some opposition from the community after the church said it would host the site.

The Uptown location has been successful in getting people experiencing homelessness into longer term housing and caring for their mental and physical health, according to Chandler