A runner is pictured near Bluff Lake in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood with the former Stapleton International Airport control tower visible in the distance on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Denver. (Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

DENVER • Property and business owners have opted not to rename the Stapleton neighborhood, though it’s named for a long-dead Denver mayor who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Nearly 3,600 people cast ballots in a referendum by the Stapleton Master Community Association, and about 65% voted to keep the name, the association reported Monday.

About 1,200 voters, nearly 35%, wanted to drop the reference to Benjamin F. Stapleton, who was Denver’s mayor nearly a century ago.

Turnout for the election was 34%, compared with less than 10% in most community association elections, according to the MCA website.

Supporters of the change said Ben Stapleton’s membership in the racist, terrorist KKK clashes with the neighborhood’s values of diversity and inclusion.

“We’re disappointed but not entirely surprised by the results because we believed that the MCA had sent out the ballots prematurely,” said Liz Stalnaker, chairwoman of Rename Stpleton for All, which pushed for the change.

The citizens group asked the association in a Facebook post to delay mailing the ballots to provide time for “more conversations to promote understanding and community outreach on the issue.”

“The facts that were true yesterday are still true today: Benjamin Stapleton was a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan. Our community name honors him. We believe that’s a problem,” said Stalnaker, whose group views the election outcome as “a speed bump.”

They will convene to discuss the results and try to determine their next move, she said.

The ballots were distributed in June to residents of the community, which spans about 4,700 acres where Stapleton International Airport once stood. Voting ended July 31.

“While residents continue to associate Stapleton with the former airport, activists within and outside the community led the call for a name change citing the airport namesake’s historic association with the Ku Klux Klan,” the Master Community Association said on its website.

The association selected a law firm to manage the election. The results were reported by an Aurora accounting firm.

“Under current rules, MCA delegates will send a nonbinding recommendation on the name change to be determined by a final vote of the MCA Board of Directors,” the website states. “Brookfield, the master developer, has the power to veto the Board’s decision, but has publicly committed to accept the Board recommendation.”

Opposition to use of the Stapleton name goes back almost as far as the early days of developing the former airport. Several black activists from neighborhoods near the airport made their objections known to executives with the developer, Forest City.

The name endured. But in 2003, Forest City amended its Community Declaration to include a process by which the name could be changed.

In 2015, a group of Black Lives Matter 5280 activists distributed flyers to the community that cited Ben Stapleton’s history with the Klan and urged that the name be changed.

Some other local organizations have deleted the word “Stapleton” from their names.

The Stapleton Foundation, a nonprofit created in 1990 to plan for use of the former airport, changed its name in 2018 to The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities.

The Denver School of Science and Technology in Stapleton also removed the neighborhood name from its title. In May, it became DSST: Montview, taking its new name from the boulevard that runs through northeast Denver.

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