Neighbors: Colorado Christian University forcing them from homes, disobeying city ordinance

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Neighbors living near Colorado Christian University said they are being forced from their homes and the school is disobeying the city's zoning ordinance that prohibits the university from using the properties.

The fight is over several properties the university purchased along South Cody Court near its campus.

Under Lakewood's zoning ordinance, the duplexes are zoned "R-2," which prohibits university/college use.

Neighbors are furious because they said the university isn't just displacing them, CCU is disobeying the city ordinance.

"It's a slippery slope we want to avoid to maintain the integrity of our neighborhood," neighborhood president Robert Baker said.

"I want them to follow the law and leave us alone. They may own these places, we may have to pay them rent, but that's as far as that should go," Jerri Dulin said.

Dulin and Lenore Herskovitz are among the tenants who are being asked to leave. Herskovitz has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years.

Four years ago, she moved across the street after her landlord sold the home she was in to the university.

The university then helped her move into the duplex across the street. Now, she said she's being forced to move again as she watches more of the neighborhood get swallowed up by CCU.

"The neighborhood will be gone. It will be an extension of the university," Herskovitz said.

Baker said 14 years ago, the neighborhood fought with the city of Lakewood and CCU on a similar issue.

Baker said the university was buying single-family homes and planned to convert them to student housing.

The neighborhood rallied and Baker said residents won after more than a year of pushing back against the city and CCU.

"It took us a year and a half to get those two ordinance changed, fighting the city tooth and nail and CCU," Baker said.

Now, Baker said it's happening again. He said the city and CCU are ignoring city zoning.

"Once again, the city is fighting us on the exact words that are in their own ordinance," Baker said.

Herskovitz and Dulin said it's a struggle to find comparable, affordable housing because the rental market has changed so drastically since they moved in.

"It's life changing. It's really life changing," Dulin said.

"I have gone online every single day and I will tell you it gets worse every day, it doesn't get better. Prices are through the roof," Herskovitz said. "There is no affordable housing."

In a statement, the city said it's taking the residents' concerns seriously. The city met with CCU administration Friday morning to discuss the situation.

"Our goal is to reach a resolution that is suitable for both the university and the residents. Our educational institutions and our neighborhoods are both vital to Lakewood’s future," city spokeswoman Stacie Oulton said in a statement.

The residents have met with CCU to discuss their grievances. In a statement, university spokesman Lance Oversole said CCU is in regular communication with neighbors and the city and is committed to working on a solution.

"Colorado Christian University has a rich history in the Denver-metro area, dating back over 100 years. The University has been proud to call Lakewood home for the last 50 of those years.

"With continued growth and change come opportunities and challenges, alike. However, the University consistently strives to be a good neighbor and to impact our community in positive and meaningful ways.

"Over the past several weeks, University leaders have been in regular communication with both neighbors and Lakewood city officials regarding the housing situation near campus. The University remains committed to working with city officials in the coming days to develop solutions to the housing challenges that are suitable for tenants, the surrounding neighborhood, the University, and the City of Lakewood."

The university has given residents the option to extend their lease until mid-July and also said it would not penalize residents who break their leases early in hopes of alleviating some of the stress.