By admin on Aug 21, 2008 | In Announcements
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CAUSE OF FAIR HOUSING AND EQUAL ACCESS ARE BEING TAKEN AT: 3029 S. Pearl Street, Englewood, Colorado 80113. Spend Responsibly.
By admin on Mar 7, 2009 | In Announcements
Lost in memories full of feeling, Bill and I sit under our umbrella tree in the back yard of Poets' Rest, Pearl Street. A single candlelight flickers the darkness. Outlined in my peripheral vision stands our chicken coop, turned garden shed. The lines of it also help to evoke the flight of my imagination.
After a while, Bill says, “You are so quiet. What are you thinking?”
I tell him that once, years ago, I dined with the King of Vendaland.
“What did you say?” He’s not sure he heard correctly.
“Not alone, but along with my five band members from Youth For Christ. We had been asked to sing at some teachers colleges and had driven up from South Africa only to find ourselves situated at a dimly campsite. We didn’t have wood for a fire pit, so we cut up salad and rolls and ate simply.
“I remember that in the background, the crackling sounds from British Radio and other places accompanied our meal. Someone had brought us a short wave radio, and we cooked our evening meal to that and laughed and sang with the songs that aired telling memoirs about them. It was surprisingly peaceful, being left to our own devices in the open air.
“Our host brought us some pillows and sleeping gear, and we camped out.
“The next morning, we performed Christian music and testimonies at a teachers college, with an interpreter nearby. The college students danced and waved their arms in approval to the songs, even though, our music was of a very different beat and sound to their own. They were so welcoming.
“Afterwards, we were quickly hustled away with all manner of importance and taken to a hotel with a very long tribal table fitted with chairs waiting in a dimly lit dining room. As we were standing there, the King of Vendaland, decked in grand colorful robes, too hot for summertime, with one of his five wives, the choice flower for social gatherings, accompanied him to the table, and he welcomed us to lunch.
“We listened to the King talk about his Country. Then, we were brought plates of food, and all that I recall from that meal are the giant shrimp on each plate. I’ve never laid eyes on shrimp that size since. I remember all of our gasps and delighted laughter. The shrimp were each the size of a rock lobster tail, about the length of my hand. Fat, juicy, sweet,-- on a bed of rice.”
Bill is insanely jealous, not only because he loves shrimp, but he also wonders why I have never told him this story before. “I don’t know,” I say, “I always think of it when we sit out here like this.”
By admin on Mar 25, 2009 | In Announcements
Our family has so much to be thankful for. We sit on the back porch under the swirling umbrella limbs of one of the two great elms on our property on Pearl Street. These are the good elms, of which are few survivors in Englewood.
We tell stories, drinking from a hot cup, snacking on sandwiches; strains of guitars in the background.
When I was a little girl, my dad accepted a job in Philadelphia as an office manager of a mission organization. The place had acres of developed lawns and big old brick or stone houses for staff members. The streets were lined with cherry blossoms in the Spring.
Our house had creaky oak floors an oak staircase, and four bedrooms at the top of it, encircling, with a large white tiled bathroom to share.
By admin on Mar 29, 2009 | In Announcements
We decided to sell our precious historic home on Acoma Street in order to afford the home on Pearl, our “pearl of great price.”
We joked that it was a “pearl of a house" on a "pearl of a street”... or, it soon would be.
Lessons learned, we designed a home that would allow each member of our family (usually students) to have their own restroom, a study nook and an extra mini-kitchen in the extra den.
We utilized the buffer of our bank's Construction Loan department which acted like a trust in dispensing funds only after inspections and work was completed.
This way, there could be no funny pre-pay business like our last contractor had pulled.
Surprisingly, the City of Englewood agreed to accept our hand-drawn plans if the foundation and roof designs were drawn by a structural architect.
Over the years, we had admired the work of Welch Construction, in Englewood, and entered into a contract with Mr. Welch to have the house finished by mid-August, in time for students to occupy it for the fall semester.
By admin on Apr 12, 2009 | In Announcements
This Easter marks the one year anniversary of last year's celebration when the Judge dismissed Englewood's first criminal prosecution of us. So I feel it is appropriate to celebrate with an entry in my journal.
By admin on Apr 16, 2009 | In Announcements
Our beautiful four bedroom home was finished…almost. We had touch-up painting and some wood trim to complete. Guys who used to live with us came to help. One of Bill's patients from Craig Hospital offered to help because he said, "I owe Bill big time," and he he helped paint the interior in exchange for a steak dinner.
Our neighbor, Miguel Drake, called the City to complain that we had installed a new water heater. "You know they no longer have a contractor? So, does that require a permit?... No? Then, sorry to bother you." We didn't know Ducky had called until months later when we obtained copies of the City's phone messages.
In late September, 2007, I was hanging curtains in a guest room one afternoon when a call came in from Teikyo Loretto Heights.
It was the South Korean student who was having a hard time. He couldn’t eat American food, and his room was next door to the men’s bathroom. He was starving and he couldn’t sleep.
By admin on Apr 27, 2009 | In Announcements
On October 22, 2007, the head of Englewood’s building department, Lance Smith, phoned me to say that the City Attorney, Dan Brotzman, had instructed him to invalidate our building permit since our contractor was no longer working on the job.
I admitted we had fired our primary contractor for breaches of contract. I explained what a struggle it had been, but the work was already finished. We were just finishing some wood trim work.
He instructed me to come down to the building department and pull a new permit. He said his department would not honor the permit previously obtained by us because it was hung on a contractor’s license, but I could obtain a homeowner’s permit.
I immediately dropped what I was doing and obeyed.
On November 7, 2007, we received a call from Tricia Langon, Senior Planner, with Community Development. She called about "several complaints" that we had "unrelated people" living with us. I told her I had written a letter of inquiry to Gary Sears and was still awaiting a reply. She said she’d call back later because she was “in the dark as to how to proceed.” One month later, December 7, 2007, she knew exactly how to proceed.
Later, upon obtaining e-mails and phone messages from this time period, I realized that she had been sending threatening Notices to other households about violating the City's definition of household for years.
What she really meant about being “in the dark” was that Mr. Sears, with other heads of staff, had been colluding together about how to prosecute a legal private residence for a City code defining, “household.”
To make themselves legally immune for this nonsense was to promulgate a lie, say: "We made a mistake, and we are correcting it now." That is all well and good for someone who doesn't have everything to lose by that lie.
In my open records from the City, I found e-mails and phone calls from the neighbors and City employees about the 'Bartnick's guest house' and 'the boarding house.' This was before I even realized what term might characterize us and defined our rights.
When Ms. Langon called next, I explained that even six weeks later,I hadn’t yet received an answer from the City Manager. All I had asked for was information, and City Manager Sears did not have the decency to converse with me. Ms. Langon replied that City Manager Sears was now ready to meet with us. December 19th would be a convenient day to discuss our options.
The hold up had been that although our select neighbors and the City Manager had already determined to force us to leave the neighborhood, they required the appearance of order to do that. They needed to "get their ducks in order" regarding the household ordinance by which to prosecute us.
I called Joe Jefferson for help. He was our District 1 Council Representative newly elected, and he relayed that in his initial interview with City Manager, Gary Sears, he had confided that the City was going to prosecute us one way or the other, and that Mr. Sears was looking into our building permits to see if they could catch us in any kind of building violation too. Joe not only spoke to me on the phone about this, but also confirmed it in an e-mail.
I wasn’t worried about the building permits because we had passed everything except the final, and I knew we had been above average in our building standards. After all, this wasn’t a fix and flip, we had personally designed it for our family’s needs. We were living in it. We were vested.
Nevertheless, when we paid for researching records at the City, we found that Manager Sears had asked Police Officer Tom Vandermee for all of my blog entries to search for something that might trigger a case against us. He also asked Lance Smith for a professional opinion as to whether there were any differences in building codes for a boarding house or a single family residence.
Even the engineer had required exterior 2’x6’ walls to provide for lower heating costs. The framer had complained about our engineer designing in extra structural support around each window and doorway. “It’s gonna be a fortress,” he’d said rolling his eyes.
But it revolted me that Mr. Sears had just arranged to meet with us “about our options,” while official plans were under way to catch us in their net. This was my turning point. As I sat there on the phone listening to Joe Jefferson, I envisioned a web the City Manager had been quietly weaving. Nausea, angst set in.
That day, December 12, 2007, a certified letter came from the City.
I panicked at this roadblock. It clearly told how they were not willing to talk about options after all, but wanted to criminalize us. The NOTICE said, “You must comply with the City's definition of household within 7 days. The City does not have any permits or variances to give you. Home occupation permits are for business, something other than the nature of the primary function of your residence, thus they do not apply to you.”
My innocent attitude turned to dismay and a feeling of utter helplessness. How could we possibly move out our flourishing South Korean at this juncture? What about our artist who had just made her room her own with linens and decor? Where would our newest guest go who had lost his job just a week after moving in? It seemed inhumane to put any of our housemates out on the street in a Colorado Winter.
I felt sick. I e-mailed the City Manager and Ms. Langon to cancel our meeting as "unnecessary" since I knew from their 7-day Notice as well as Joe's conversation that they had already made up their minds how to proceed. We had their Notice in hand.
Joe shocked me further by reporting that they might even have a police officer standing by to serve us with a complaint depending upon what I said at the meeting.
In my e-mail, I showed my revulsion like the scream of a rape victim when I named Langon and Sears as the spiders weaving their web.
December 20, 2007 I desperately wrote a letter to each City Council member instead, asking each to research the code as to variances and zoning options, and I also asked them to over-rule the City Manager since we were not criminals, but privately shared our home with students.
No one on the City Council bothered to respond. Later, I discovered, that none of them could be bothered to research their own code or to care two twitters for a common homeowner such as myself.
On December 22, Christmas week, Officer Watson stuffed a "14-Day Notice of Violation of the Definition of Household" under the doormat: Ho~Ho! Our very own Christmas present from the City had arrived.
By admin on May 13, 2009 | In Announcements
Hippie-Chick fumed and cried and told us she was leaving at the end of December. "Thanks, Englewood, for ruining my Christmas. I will never live in this town again." And, she left.
By this time our South Korean student had managed to arrange a guardianship for us. Our relationship was "legal" according to Englewood standards.
December 27, 2007, I wrote an e-mail to the City Manager telling him we were in full compliance with the City's definition of household.
Manager Sears didn't care about compliance after all. His aim was to boot us out of his neighborhood and make us suffer for living within eye-shot of his own home. He also wasn't keen on the fact that we had called him a spider weaving a web for us.
The City Manager's park side property with a private river running through it simply did not coincide with seeing mixed races living near his house. Where two were welcome, more might come. There was a slippery slope to consider.
Manager Sears continued to confer with City Attorney Brotzman and Building Department Supervisor, Lance Smith. Jointly, they determined how to refuse us an approval of our final inspections.
Nothing was illegal about not giving us a final inspection on our permits, except as to a breech of contract, and they could always claim they were looking out for us in a dangerous situation if we took them to court.
It would be hush-hush that it was the City forcing our mixed race students out of our home. We were the only one facing liability if any of the students complained to HUD or to Colorado Civil Rights Division about being tossed out of their home. As yet, nothing could be proven about the City's intimidation, threats, or refusal of City services.
So, when we called for final inspections on January 3, 2008, the City inspectors came together saying they'd planned it that way.
The correction notices they left with us asked for caulking a bathroom toilet, correcting a shower's water heat by one degree, and instructing us to put a handrail return at the top of our stairway. Inspector Charles Petty penned, "refused" in the "final inspection" column.
Inspector Craig Daly wrote a memo to the file stating that everything appeared in good condition, but that the original plumber on the permit had not finished the job. There was no danger or safety concern mentioned.
But, Lance Smith immediately called Roger at Castle Plumbing and made a deal with him, not to hold him liable for any dangerous issue that might arise at the Bartnick's house, if he would immediately write a letter for the City files that he hadn't done the finish plumbing at the house. Of course he complied because it relieved him from liability as a plumber who had abandoned his job.
Then, on January 7, 2008, Lance refused not only finals on the final inspections, but also refused to give us new permits. He said City Attorney Dan Brotzman had ordered him not to. I showed him our correction notice from the final, and said, "I'm here to comply with your inspector's request to buy yet another permit." I told him we had finished the corrections on the inspectors' Notices, but he refused to perform a final inspection. I asked him to back up his refusals with a written policy or law, and he said he would ask the City's attorney and get back with me.
I went that evening and addressed City Council, asking them to right a wrong happening at the City Staff level regarding our home, and also asked them face to face to investigate where the City's right to plan or map out proposed zoning divisions ends and where a homeowner's right extends as to private uses of the inside of their home.
At the end of the meeting, Councilman McCaslin ranted against us saying, "You can kill more flies with honey than vinegar." My experience with the City's one and only "brick wall" posture was beginning to support other residents' claims of injustice.
On January 12, We received Mr. Smith's letter refusing to perform a final inspection or grant us a new permit, or to write a letter of completion. He carbon copied the letter to City Manager Sears and City Attorney Brotzman. He cited a half of a sentence of code that aroused my curiosity. The code mentioned R-3 Group. Perhaps we were some kind of group home?
I looked up the code and law unfolded like tulip petals. The first thing I noticed was that under Englewood's Group Home code, we were in full compliance to host unrelated people in our district.
The City's term R-3 was listed on our permit as a kind of single-family style of home. Mr. Smith had written a memo to City Manager Sears telling him there was no difference in the building standards between single-family homes and boarding houses.
In fact, if we wanted to, we could have shared the house with 8 unrelated people, 2 per bed-room. This law showed not only that we were within our rights, not outside them, but also that we had not abused our rights. Ours was a home for study and reflection. No dangerous issues of too many people had ever occurred here.
The City called it a "boarding house." With a huge sigh of relief, we decided to be a residential boarding house. We looked over State codes and health codes and found that no permits or licenses were required because we were still only a private residence. This suited us fine and we decided to rely on it whole-heartedly. But, why hadn't the City Manager ever let on to us about it? Surely he knew about the codes enacted during his tenure as Manager?
On January 15, 2008, City Manager Sears was responsible for serving us with a Summons and Complaint, in layman's terms, it was a groundless and malicious prosecution. We were appalled. Didn't there have to be some correlation of facts behind a City's Complaint?
I complained about Gary Sears to his professional management association that he was depriving us of due process and had broken trust with us as to our building permits also. I complained to the Supreme Court about the City attorneys' involvement.
We wrote a Motion to Dismiss and another for Summary Judgment. Nothing happened. We were forced to hire an special zoning attorney for the conference at ten times the amount my husband makes working at Craig Hospital. At pre-trial, we conferred with the City's special prosecutor and told him that our research showed we had found our affirmative defense in the City's Boarding House code.
I also asked the City for an Appeal of Lance Smith's refusal to perform the final inspection. The City refused using a flimsy excuse that I had waited too long to request an appeal. It was later that I found out that Inspector Craig had closed out our plumbing and mechanical permits without further claim against us.
Soon after, Special Prosecutor Alan Katz, whom the City had hired because of our complaints against their own attorneys, wrote his own Motion to Dismiss, and I discovered on my birthday that the Judge had approved it. Nothing could have made us happier.
An attorney for Cherry Hills later told us he had never seen an attorney get a municipal case dismissed before, much less by a regular person. We celebrated that evening at a local Englewood eatery with friends, cheers all around and unanimous congratulations.