By Leah Burkett
The legal battle to stop the Grove project in Downtown Littleton is slowly but surely moving forward. After surviving Zocalo’s attempt to have our attorney removed from the case, in early March the same judge denied both the City of Littleton and Zocalo’s efforts to have the case dismissed. In mid-March, both defendants were finally required to answer the original legal complaint from October 2015. Not surprisingly, both defendants denied all zoning violations and any wrong-doing.
The legal case is now slated to go to trial, although a decision will likely be made sooner if a motion for summary judgment is granted. Although there are numerous (and obviously important) zoning violations cited in the case, the overarching issue in this challenge is whether or not the neighbors should have been entitled to the appeal hearing that they sought from the City’s Board of Adjustment. This one decision, which boils down to an interpretation of City code, is not exactly appropriate for a trial. A motion for summary judgment fast forwards the case and asks for a quicker decision in our favor.
To say the least, by falsely declaring the Grove a ‘use by right’ project and claiming it meets existing zoning provisions, the City of Littleton made it a very hard case to fight. According to the attorneys at Foster Graham, the only sure-fire way to stop a ‘use by right’ project is to seek an injunction. Unfortunately, injunctions aren’t exactly attainable for your average Joe Citizen: to obtain one requires a bond deposit which can easily amount to multi-millions of dollars. Do any of you readers have a millionaire friend that would be willing to do this for us? We didn’t think so!
Plan B was to challenge the case internally within the City of Littleton, through the Board of Adjustment (BoA). If the neighborhoods’ appeal application would have been accepted, a hearing would either have killed the Grove plan all together or made it a much simpler legal challenge. However, since the City interpreted that the BoA hearing was not allowed, Plan B became to challenge the City’s BoA interpretation. The defendant’s motions to disqualify and dismiss the case were unexpected hurdles in the legal challenge, but now that those hurdles have been cleared, we march forward with our heads held high.
Whether we win the case or not, there are some troubling questions that neither the City Council nor Staff have yet been willing to discuss: When it comes to land-use, where are the checks and balances to staff decisions when the Council and Boards are cut out of the process? (There are none). Who investigates complaints of abuse of power? (Nobody – except perhaps the abusers of power themselves). What is to stop the Staff from abusing the ‘use-by-right’ approach again? (Who knows?!)
The case will likely drag on for at least a few more months before we have a final decision. For now, the site remains quietly fenced off; apparently abandoned while we await a decision. Stay tuned!
The legal challenge against the Grove is being financed by Colorado non-profit Advocates for Littleton. Contributions to this important litigation are gratefully accepted at:
Note that Advocates for Littleton is a registered Colorado Charity, but is not an IRS 501c3, as such contributions are not tax deductible.
For more information and to stay tuned, visit Advocates for Littleton’s website: