Homeowners across Colorado Springs should pay attention this week as trial begins over a huge brick wall built around the Old North End neighborhood home of Holger and Sally Christiansen.
Trial is scheduled to start Tuesday morning in Fourth Judicial District Court.
The outcome could determine whether city zoning codes have any teeth. And whether the rules governing life in the Old North End Historic District mean anything. Or whether the codes only apply to folks who can’t afford a team of high-powered attorneys.
Maybe you remember my columns on the red brick wall. In September 2008, I described it as magnificent. The $200,000-plus structure towers over Cascade Avenue, north of Uintah Street. It’s nearly 7 feet tall with columns topped by decorative orbs reaching nearly 11 feet. I also called it elegant with its curved caps and design details.
Too bad it was built without permits and exceeds the 6-foot maximum height for fences and walls. Too bad it encroaches nearly 2 feet into a city alley and is so big it’s classified as a building which must sit 25 feet from property lines. Too bad it was not approved by the Historic Preservation Board as required for construction in the Old North End.
The Christiansens opted not to talk to me last week. But in the past, Holger, an architect, said he was a victim of neighbors who want to control everything done in the Old North End, especially Dave Munger, past president of the neighborhood association.
Holger admitted the wall sits in the alley, by mistake. And he noted hundreds of fences and walls also encroach on city property.
He said the city gave him a variance for the wall to reach 6-feet-11. He assumed the taller ornamentation would be exempt.
And he defended the wall as keeping with the historic nature of the neighborhood and necessary to muffle the growing roar of traffic on Uintah and Cascade. He even called it: “the best looking wall in the city.”
Frustrated by the bureaucracy, the couple proceeded with the wall, even after city staff told them to stop and urged them to get permits and seek formal variances. Holger pushed ahead even after a staffer cautioned him that ignoring code could lead to a long, torturous appeal process, comparable to “waterboarding.”
The city took the rare step of suing, spokesman John Leavitt said, because zoning codes are critical to “uphold community standards” and “protect property values.”
Munger, labeled the villian by Holger, expects to testify at the trial and declined to comment on the case. But as president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, the neighborhood umbrella group, Munger is an advocate of zoning, the planning process and the need to preserve both.
He fears what the city would be like with weak or no zoning codes.
“It would be,” Munger said, “mayhem.”
See photos on my blog at