Judge stalls potential sale of 59-acre federal property in Lakewood
A U.S. district judge ruled that the federal government must temporarily refrain from selling a 59-acre property near the Federal Center RTD rail station in Lakewood.
The U.S. General Services Administration can not accept bids or sell the property before Oct. 16, according to a ruling Tuesday by Judge William J. Martinez.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless filed suit last month in federal court to halt the sale of the property to a developer, based partly on the grounds that HUD officials had determined that the property was unsuitable for homeless services.
The judge’s ruling Tuesday is in response to a joint motion filed by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which represents the U.S. General Service Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The GSA property, on vacant land near the West Rail Line Federal Center station near West Sixth Avenue and Simms Street, is a former landfill site which includes 15 acres contaminated with high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, dioxin/furans, pesticides and asbestos — a potential threat to physical safety, according to court documents.
The land’s contamination was used to halt the potential use of the property by the homeless coalition. The property was then put up for sale with potential uses including retail and residential sites.
The judge’s ruling Tuesday opens the door for homeless advocates interests in the property. The homeless coalition argued that the McKinney-Vento Act requires gives what amounts to the right of first refusal when federal properties are sold.
“We are pleased that Judge Martinez agreed with us that HUD’s original determination and subsequent affirmation about the property’s ‘unsuitability’ for homelessness assistance had been arbitrary and capricious,” coalition CEO John Parvensky said in a news release. “We believe that the only logical conclusion that HUD can make in light of the evidence provided by GSA and CCH is that the property be deemed ‘suitable’ for development to assist the homeless.”
HUD has agreed to provide a new “determination of suitability” within 30 days of receiving information from the GSA and the homeless coalition. The housing department has a Sept. 14 deadline to issue a written notice on its decision, according to court documents.
CCH staff and partners said the property offers a variety of potential opportunities for homeless resource development including supportive housing, healthcare, wellness services, and vocational programs.
Homeless advocates view the parcel as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to develop needed affordable housing and services” close to the RTD Federal Station light rail stop.
“We believe that a transit oriented development that provides affordable housing and supportive services to these families and individuals will go far in meeting our goal of creating lasting solutions to homelessness in the area,” Parvensky said.