In 2008, the Ivywild neighborhood south of downtown Colorado Springs erupted when a prison minister tried to convert a halfway house for women into a facility for men.
They didn’t believe the minister could handle 13 men or enforce rules of sobriety, curfews and Christian behavior.
The opposition was so vocal the City Council ignored the city planner, overturned the planning commission and sided with neighbors.
Men were out.
Now the issue is back.
If Tony Huerena gets his way, his Unida House on Cheyenne Boulevard would host 30 men with substance abuse problems on parole or probation.
Ivywild is erupting again.
Click here to watch as KOAA TV 5 walks through the facility with Huerena.
Neighbors don’t want ex-cons with substance abuse problems living there.
The neighborhood is trying to attract new residents and businesses after being rocked in recent years by the closing of its elementary school the loss of a historic church.
Even worse, homeless, prostitutes and drug dealers from South Nevada Avenue and Brookside Street seemed to be creeping deeper into Ivywild.
When accountant Martin Harper learned of the plan on the Ivywild Facebook page, he quickly contacted City Council members.
“This neighborhood has already been declared blighted by the city in an effort to make some improvements,” Harper said. “I don’t think bringing a bunch of convicts in with drug problems is going to help or prevent it from being blighted.”
A neighborhood meeting hosted by city planners left Harper and others more agitated. Many walked out.
They were shocked to learn Unida House has been open 18 months with five men, the maximum it can have and avoid supervision as a human services operation.
And they were upset city planner Mike Schultz had decided to recommend approval for 15 men to the City Planning Commission at a hearing scheduled Nov. 17.
“This seems to be taking the neighborhood in the wrong direction,” Harper said. “Are we going to improve the neighborhood or not?”
That sentiment echoed with every Ivywild resident I spoke to last week.
The message was heard at City Hall, too. Schultz told me late Thursday that he would ask the planning commission to postpone the case to allow more neighborhood meetings.
Heurena is disappointed but vows to push ahead.
“I just want to help people,” he said. “Maybe we can reach a compromise. Maybe the neighborhood would accept women instead of men. I’m willing to listen.”
Here’s a link to the 34-page application before the City Planning Commission.