By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4)– Take a drive around Denver, and you might think the city is under construction.

(credit: CBS)

“The fences are pretty unsightly but so is a block of tents,” Chris Nielsen who lives downtown said.

The tents he is referring to housed Denver’s homeless population, they’ve now been replaced with bright orange fencing, giant boulders, jagged rocks, and metal containers.

“When the fences are up, there’s a lot more activity in the neighborhood, like me walking my dog,” he said.

While it may be a successful deterrent, the city says it’s not allowed.

“What we do issue are permits for the purpose of regrowing vegetation and that doesn’t mean it is an appropriate tool to discourage folks from camping we do not issue permits to do that,” Nick Williams with Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI).

(credit: CBS)

At the last advisory meeting, Williams told attendees that complaints are rolling in. A spokesperson with DOTI shared some of those complaints with CBS4.

One resident says “larger than life fencing blocking public space. This is unpleasant, unnecessary, and dangerous.” Another calls it “theft of the public right of way and access to nature in the city.”

But limited staff means limited enforcement. DOTI has 16 right-of-way inspectors that oversee the street occupancy permits that are issued in Denver for work that occurs in the public right-of-way.

More than 10,000 street occupancy permits have been issued so far in 2022. Williams says they’re working on how best to address the response.

“What that means is in the next few months as we continue to staff that group up, we have started to finally make some headway. With staffing on there that will become more of a priority,” Williams said.

While residents CBS4 spoke with say they are supportive of opening the space once again, they say it should come with a plan to help those forced to live on the street.

(credit: CBS)

“Would really just like it if we could take care of them so that our neighborhood doesn’t need to worry.

A spokesperson with DOTI says currently when responding to complaints, if inspectors find no significant safety issues that need to be addressed, it is often cleared as “no violation visible” which some residents are also raising issues with, and the city in the advisory meeting said they would address.

Karen Morfitt