The Kholghy family moved to the United States from Iran in the 1970s, in pursuit of the American Dream.
25 years ago, they opened Authentic Persian Rugs on Colorado Boulevard, the busiest street in the Denver area. The popular store has a prime location that it depends on to serve its very loyal clientele. In 2006, the family purchased the 5.4 acres of land.
For years, the family has wanted to develop the property—but the city has strung them along with false promises, claiming that the two should collaborate on a shared vision. A family member even accompanied city officials on a trip to San Antonio in 2010 to check out that city’s riverwalk development.
In 2013, the Glendale city council voted to declare the Kholghy property and others “blighted,” which paves the way for urban renewal and eminent domain. “Blight” is supposed to mean properties that pose an immediate threat to public health and safety. Anyone can see that Authentic Persian Rugs is in excellent condition. But in Colorado, perfectly fine properties can be declared “blighted” because the definition is so broad and vague—leaving the law ripe for abuse.
The Kholghy family was told that it was not the city’s intention to ever use eminent domain—the city was simply trying to secure bond financing. The Kholghys were told they didn’t have anything to worry about, so the family didn’t protest the designation.
But this year, the city sent out a request for proposals for the Kholghy property and the surrounding land, seeking a developer to build the city’s vision for, Glendale 180 a riverwalk entertainment district. The Kholghys submitted a plan for their property, as did one other developer, Wulfe and Company. The city chose the latter. The Kholghys are not a part of the city’s vision and according to Mayor Mike Dunafon, they must go. The city claims it will aim to break ground this fall.
(The family is currently suing the Glendale Urban Renewal Authority, claiming that it improperly denied their proposal to redevelop the land and instead approved the proposal of a developer with ties to the city. )
On May 12, the city held a hearing on whether to authorize the Glendale Urban Renewal Authority to use eminent domain to acquire properties in the target area. The public understands that eminent domain is for public use, things like roads and schools—not to give the Kholghys’ successful small business to a wealthy developer.
Despite nearly 150 people attending a protest at Authentic Persian Rugs beforehand, marching down to City Hall and flooding the chambers, the city voted unanimously in favor of eminent domain.
On July 21, Glendale told the Kholghys and the media that the city would make another offer and would not use eminent domain if the offer was refused (it was). Though some media outlets erroneously used the city’s assertions to suggest the Glendale eminent domain case was “over,” the Kholghys correctly pointed out that until the city removes the blight designation from their property, the city’s assurances mean nothing. Under Colorado law, unless Glendale passes a law that removes the blight designation, either the current administration or a future one can easily use eminent domain to take the Kholghy’s property. The city refuses to lift the designation, instead choosing to preserve the ability to seize the property. Until Glendale passes such a law, this fight is not over.
This abuse of power and private property rights is all happening at the behest of Mayor Mike Dunafon, in his self-proclaimed “Vatican of liberty.” According to his campaign website for the governorship in 2014, Mayor Dunafon believes that “all Coloradans deserve…private property and less red tape for small business owners.”