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Construction company scolds outspoken neighbors with ‘disrespectful’ sign

DENVER -- A construction zone battle is brewing in the Highland neighborhood between hard hat crews and residents.

People have been upset for months over the development of a modern 12-unit condominium building.

Those living in the area of West 29th Avenue and Tennyson Street say the new building doesn't mesh well with their historic neighborhood.

They have routinely reported construction crews to the city for alleged permit violations and occasionally blocking a popular alleyway.

By Monday, the resident complaints led Tuft Construction to hit back with a sign many are calling passive aggressive.

In a nutshell, the message said because of the conduct of a few residents, the alley, parking lane and bike lane will be closed around the clock until the project is complete.

Before the mounting complaints, right-of-way areas were only closed occasionally.

The message from Tuft isn't sitting well with residents such as Greg Benchwick. The new development has been a battle for him and many other residents for the past year.

"We have a normal line of houses and then suddenly you get to this [building]," Benchwick said. "It towers the rest of the houses in the neighborhood."

The area where Benchwick lives is full of old Victorian-style brick homes and bungalows.

People living in the older homes have complained about Tuft Construction repeatedly, but they say their calls and emails to city officials seem to be getting nowhere.

Tuft said the complaints leveled against it are erroneous and are nothing more than false reports and a waste of city time.

"It's been a nightmare," Benchwick said. "[Construction workers] block my driveway constantly. They leave trash on my sidewalk. The workers have been a little hostile."

Tuft Construction disagrees.

"After discussion with the city, Tuft Construction determined that it had no choice but to obtain a full right-of-way permit to end the constant challenges and drain on city and project resources," Tuft Construction's lawyer said in a statement.

Residents take Tuft's message as a sign of disrespect, and feel the city is only concerned about money and development.

"We're getting no response from the mayor's office or from the permitting office to help us with this," resident Luke Bischoff said.

Bischoff and others said this issue is not just limited to Highland.

They support a growing Denver but said they want to make sure it's done in a way that complements its diverse neighborhoods.

Tuft Construction would not say when it expects to be done with the condominium project.

The company released a statement through its lawyer.

"From the beginning Tuft Construction and the Project Owner, October First Company, LLC, engaged the neighborhood in extensive discussions about the Project and received nearly universal support. The Project will be a welcome addition to North Denver that will increase property values and revenues for local businesses.

"Unfortunately, a small number of the neighbors disagree. While Tuft Construction respects their rights to do so, the reality is that Tuft Construction has had to address reported threats and alleged intimidation of workers, nearly daily calls to the City and other government agencies falsely reporting violations, respond to unfounded legal challenges to the plans, and other similar conduct.

"In this case, Tuft Construction's intention was to limit right of way restrictions as much as possible in an effort to be a good neighbor by pulling individual permits on an as needed basis. Instead, it was receiving constant challenges as to whether it properly obtained those permits. After discussion with the City, Tuft Construction determined that it had no choice but to obtain a full right of way permit to end the constant challenges and drain on City and Project resources.

"Because this was a change in Tuft Construction's position and will create a larger inconvenience for the neighbors, it felt it owed an explanation for the disruption. It apologizes for the inconvenience to the neighborhood and is making efforts to timely complete the Project. October First and Tuft are committed to working with the local community, the design professionals, and the City to safely build a quality addition to North Denver."