Fourth Judicial District Judge Timothy Simmons, below, wasn’t buying what Holger and Sally Christiansen were selling.
Simmons presided over a three-day bench trial last month in the case of Colorado Springs vs. the Christiansens and their coutersuit over their construction of a massive red brick wall around the compound of their Old North End Neighborhood mansion on North Cascade Avenue.
The city accused the Christiansens — he’s an architect and she’s a real estate agent — of building their wall without proper permits, without necessary Historic Preservation approval, and in violation of codes governing height, public easements and setbacks.
They started construction in June 2007 and continued work even after the city issued a “stop work order” and warned them it was not in compliance.
In other words, it was too tall, sat too close to property lines and encroached on city property by straying about two feet into an alleyway. Here’s a look at the wall in a photo I took in May 2008 when I first wrote about it. I’ve also blogged about it several times. Here’s my most recent postings.
Simmons rejected their arguments in an 11-page verdict which ended by giving the Christiansens 90 days to lower the wall to 72 inches. Here’s a link to the verdict so you can read it for yourself: simmons-verdict
It’s a “very big victory” for the city, said Will Bain, senior city attorney, because it affirmed his argument that city codes, permitting procedures and appeals processes must be followed and not short-circuited by a trip to court.
“We argued to the judge that this is not something the court can determine,” Bain said. “The city’s process has to be honored.”
In his closing arguments, Bain actually argued that the Christiansens were asking for special treatment.
“The case comes down to whether the city is a city of laws or a city of men,” Bain told Simmons. The Gazette’s John Ensslin reported on the trial at his excellent Sidebar blog on Gazette.com.
The couple had maintained they were singled out for selective enforcement, denied due process and had their constitutional rights violated. They claimed they could not get a fair hearing before the Historic Preservation Board.
The Christiansens have 45 days to file an appeal and 90 days to lower the wall.
I called Holger at his architect office to see what he planned to do.
He hung up on me.
Fire up another bowl of popcorn. This could be a double feature!