The year was 1938. A number of homes had been built in what is known as "Country Homes"- sometimes called "The Circle” – which is the area lying south of Hampden Avenue and west of University Boulevard. South of Country Homes, the Cherry Hills Country Club had managed to survive the depression and was showing a modest increase in membership. Still further south, at the intersection of Quincy Avenue and University Boulevard, was a small school simply known as the Cherry Hills School.
There were a few other homes in the area, including those of Temple Buell, Dr. Hubert Work and Albert Brooks on the east side of University, while on the west side were homes owned by Churchill Owen and Merritt Gano in Country Homes. Also in the area were the homes of Persis Owen and Louesa Bromfield and the Hickerson mansion, later to become St. Mary's Academy. In the bottom land along Little Dry Creek and Clarkson Street was the farm of Caldwell Martin, who raised pigeons and bred fine horses, and south of the Martin farm was the home of John T. Burnett, Democratic National Committeeman and prominent oilman. Further east were many lots platted at the turn of the century by zealous promoters and developers, many of which could be purchased, for unpaid taxes.
This lovely section, with its beautiful homes, naturally attracted those who would commercialize the area with filling stations, stores, shops and small industrial plants of one kind or another. So in about 1938, the Cherry Hills Improvement Association was formed, whose principal purpose was the protection of the area and the prevention of unsightly and inconsistent uses of land.
The southern limits of the City of Denver were a mile to the north at Yale Avenue. Except for the Brown mansion, later the Denver Country Day School, there was only the KLZ broadcasting site with two towers and a few scattered homes. Wellshire Country Club had been purchased by the City of Denver and was converted from a private to a municipal course. In general, the appearance of the area was that of wide open fields with a few cottonwoods along the water courses and, here or there, a small home or collection of homes. At that time, too, zoning was more or less in its infancy, even in municipalities, and country zoning was almost unheard of.
The constant battle between the Cherry Hills Improvement Association and would-be promoters finally led this group, under the leadership of J. Churchill Owen, to draft and have introduced in the 1939 session of the Colorado Legislature, a law authorizing county commissioners to zone the unincorporated area of a county. Upon the adoption of this law, the Cherry Hills Improvement Association officials petitioned the Arapahoe County Commissioners to adopt the Cherry Hills zoning resolution which covered most of the area now occupied by Cherry Hills and the area to the south.
Then came 1941 and the war and all the construction and development ceased, not only because of a lack of materials, but also because of rationing of rubber and gasoline. These restrictions led to the formation of numerous expediencies. Each mother had her day to take a carload of children to and from school. Automobile Dubs were formed among the men and, even some of the finest lawns in the area supported a couple of sheep or other meat producing animals or poultry to augment the supply of ration stamps.
With the coming of peace in 1945, George Cranmer, then manager of Parks and Improvements of the City of Denver, conceived the idea that returning members of the Air Force would want their own planes and that increased airport facilities were one of the postwar necessities for Denver. Mr. Cranmer purchased several hundred acres of land south of the Cherry Hills schoolhouse and approximately three miles east of Littleton. This was to be the beginning of an airport for small planes and freight-express and cargo planes. The members of the Cherry Hills Improvement Association pointed out to Mr. Cranmer that this proposed airport was so close to the Cherry Hills area that the planes would be only a few hundred feet off the ground as they passed over the area.
The Cherry Hills officials also pointed out, that with the foothills on the west and the north-south radio beacon on the east, the principal runways of this field would of necessity have to be north and south. But Mr. Cranmer was adamant and so were the officials of the Cherry Hills Improvement Association. Many meetings were held, mostly at the residence of Temple Buell. Much study of the Cherry Hills zoning resolution and other laws convinced the officials of the Association that Mr. Cranmer was apparently within his rights. Then some of the lawyers of the group discovered court decisions of other states in which a city had proposed to erect an airport close to one of its suburbs; which was then unincorporated. The suburb, upon learning of such proposal, had itself incorporated as a town and one of the first ordinances adopted was one putting a floor under the height at which airplanes could fly over the town.
When this report was made to the Improvement Association, the members immediately began discussing the possibilities of incorporating the area. At that time, the State law required a petition for the incorporation of a town must be signed by at least 75 resident landowners. An incorporation petition was finally drawn and 75 landowners were found who affixed their signatures; following which, the petition was presented in June of 1945 to the County Court of Arapahoe County. The presiding Judge, Henry M. Teller, appointed commissioners to call an election.
The scenes were reminiscent of those of old New England. Many town meetings were held at the Cherry Hills School. The question of incorporation was argued pro and con. Finally came the day when the election was held and the incorporation was approved by a large majority.
The unofficial body of men who were acting as a steering committee felt it would be more democratic and more satisfactory if the town was divided into six districts and a trustee elected from each district by the entire electorate. No one thought of preparing or filing nominating petitions. Instead, another town meeting was held and, without authority of law or otherwise, the residents from each of the six districts met in various comers of the hall and decided whom they wanted as trustee; following which, the entire meeting voted that Joseph F. Little and Louesa Bromfield should be Mayor and Clerk of Cherry Hills Village. With this legal activity out of the way, the County Court, after ascertaining that the Village had, in fact, received an affirmative vote for incorporation, appointed a commission to hold an election which turned out to be more or less a formality. The first Board of Trustees elected were Caldwell Martin, Denver attorney and general counsel for the Great Western Sugar Company; Edna B. Catron, wife of the area's beloved physician; Albert S. Brooks, vice-president of the United States National Bank of Denver; J. H. K. Martin, retired investment banker; Paul Spencer, president of the Spencer Lumber Company; and Earl Loser, chief engineer of the Public Service Company of Colorado.
The Town had no money. In fact, it would have none for a year because there was no opportunity to levy assessments or collect taxes. The marshal was to be a volunteer. J. D. Nicholson, an official of the Mine and Smelter Supply Company, was the first Treasurer, although he had no money to count. The Town had no town hall meeting place, but the school directors generously offered the use of a classroom to be used as a meeting place – on credit. In an area of great expenditures and taxation, this Board of Trustees decided it was not going to incur any debts and so the Town would have to get along with volunteer services until the taxes began coming in. It should be pointed out that, at that time, the total assessed valuation of Cherry Hills Village was a little over $900,000.
One of the first ordinances proposed, but never adopted because the necessity for it had ceased, was an ordinance limiting the height at which planes could fly over the Town. It was also decided that the mill levy for municipal purposes should be five mills, which meant that the first year the Town operated without any money – its total budget was $4,500. The Trustees adopted the usual and customary ordinances governing meetings and the authority and duties of the various officials.
They then turned their attention to what was to be known for many years as Ordinance No. 9, Series of 1945, the zoning ordinance. The main topic of consideration of Ordinance No. 9 was the size of the lots. There had already been some building. There were building sites platted for an acre or an acre and a quarter in size; however, the majority of the Town was unplatted. With the exception of a favored few who were allowed to connect to the Denver water system, the water supply for most homes came from wells, which had to be far enough away from the domestic sewage systems of their owners, as well as those of adjoining owners, to eliminate any possibility of contamination. It was also considered that, in this semi-rural area, many homeowners owned horses or other kinds of animals. So for 60% of the area, the minimum building site was stated to be two and a half acres.
Again, there was considerable discussion as to the character of the homes to be erected. Cherry Hills had beautiful homes both large and small. It was determined – it being the thought of the trustees, a thought which has been proven correct – that no one would buy two and a half acres of land and then build a house which would not be in keeping with its surroundings. Then came the question of land uses.
One of the serious discussions was concerning a commercial area with stores and service establishments. It was pointed out that the entire area was amply served by stores and establishments selling commodities and providing services along South Broadway in Englewood and Littleton. It was also pointed out that there was a sizable commercial area along East Evans Avenue in Denver and, therefore, there was no necessity for Cherry Hills Village to have its own commercial center. That policy has been adhered to down to this day. As to questions of how land should be used, a series of residential uses and prohibitions were adopted which can be summed up, oddly enough, in this day of increasing restrictions as "live as you please, so long as you do not annoy your neighbors."
In the years following these first steps, Cherry Hills developed a personality and history of its own. The City Clerk ran Cherry Hills from her home for many years, while the Police and Road Departments conducted business from their vehicles and the Municipal Court convened on a back porch. From the red color of the street signs, selected to match the shade of the City Clerk's shoes, to the views of the Rocky Mountains, Cherry Hills has maintained its individuality.
By the late 1940's, the City recognized the need to manage the various elements of growth facing the City. City Council retained Mr. S. R. deBoer as a city planner and appointed a Planning Board and a Board of Adjustment to give direction to changes looming on the horizon. The planning emphasized maintaining single-family residential properties in an open, semi-rural character of the City in the face of urban growth in the metro Denver area. The Village Crier newsletter of the early 1950's noted the new City plan: "there is an over-all plan worked out for the Village so that its future growth may not turn into a hodge-podge of mistakes."
City growth mandated more formalized and comprehensive services and the inclusion of the City in metro-wide issues. Cherry Hills became a charter member of the Inter-County Regional Planning Commission (later the Denver Regional Council of Governments) in the late 1950's to deal with matters affecting the greater Denver area, such as the increases in vehicular traffic that necessitated the widening of University Boulevard to four lanes in 1963. Also in 1963, the City appointed its first road superintendent and dedicated the Village Center at University and Quincy to house City operations and employees. In 1964, the Cherry Hills Fire District constructed a firehouse on South University to serve Cherry Hills and parts of Greenwood Village.
At about the same time, the City of Denver annexed several areas near Cherry Hills and threatened to grab land all the way to the southern border of Arapahoe County. To prevent encroachment, Cherry Hills annexed several areas to the north and east of the City, including Cherry Hills East, Southmoor Vista, North Charlou and Mansfield Heights. Additional expansion included parcels to the south and east of the City along Belleview. This expansion added nearly 600 residents and a third again as much area to the City.
In 1966, citizens elected 21 convention members to draw up a Charter for Cherry Hills to become a home rule town, changing from its status as a statutory town. The proposed Charter was approved, and the City government thereby received an additional level of autonomy.
Delegations from Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills met for several years discussing a possible merger of the two cities. In a 1967 election, residents of Cherry Hills approved the plan; however, Greenwood residents voted against the merger, so the idea could not go forward.
A flood in May of 1973 filled the Random Road/Meade Lane area, the corner of Hampden Avenue and South Clarkson Street, and put the intersection of Quincy Avenue and University Boulevard under four feet of water. The High Line Canal failed at nearly fifty points through the City, and police evacuated residents from the Devonshire area due to a fear that the Wellshire dam in Denver would burst. That year, the City joined the Urban Drainage & Flood Control District to add flood control devices to local creeks, establish flood plain zoning categories and place additional controls on the High Line Canal. Those measures have proven successful in limiting losses and hardship to residents of the City due to flooding.
Increasingly complex and involved municipal issues required professional management of the City. In 1977, the City Council exercised an option in the Home Rule Charter to create a Council/Manager form of government and hired Charles Coward, first as a circuit riding city manager and, in 1979, as a full time manager. Mr. Coward assumed some of the duties previously handled by long-time City Clerk Elizabeth "Woodie" Noel, who served in many roles simultaneously during her long tenure with the City.
Population growth in Cherry Hills and the southern metro area challenged the City's ability to maintain its character. The City addressed many on-going issues, including the implementation of dog leash ordinances, reduction of regional cut-through traffic and the consolidation of thirty-eight separate utility districts in the City. Large daily regional traffic flows required alterations of City streets to keep cars confined to designated arterial routes. Quincy Avenue was offset at several intersections, and impedance devices slowed traffic at locations leading into the City. Remodels and expansions of the Village Center in 1973 and in 1983 mirrored increasing demands for City services.
In 1970 and again in 1993, the City updated the Master Plan to guide the growth and development of the community and protect the semi-rural nature of Cherry Hills. In 2007, the Planning and Zoning Commission began the process of updating the City’s master plan, as the growth of Denver metro area continues to pressure the City's dedication to maintaining the semi-rural character of the community and high quality of life of its residents.
In 1960, the City became involved in a lawsuit over the proposed development of the KLZ site on Hampden Avenue and University Boulevard into a large shopping mall. The ensuing court battle lasted for five years, and twice went to the Colorado Supreme Court. Cherry Hills ultimately prevailed, and Cinderella City was relocated to a more fitting site further west in Englewood.
In 1972, the City won the so-called Nopro case, confirming the City's ability to restrict development incompatible with defined community values and establishing an important precedent in land use law.
Citizens of Cherry Hills took up the fight against the proposed construction of an interchange at I-25 and Quincy Avenue in 1971. CHARGE (Cherry Hills Association Representing Good Environment) and the City Council successfully resisted the building of a highway interchange in close proximity to the City, based on concerns that it would result in a massive influx of traffic.
A series of court rulings in 1993 confirmed both the integrity of the City's zoning and the determination of its residents to preserve the character of their community. After ten years of litigation, the City won the Cherry Hills Resort Development Corporation lawsuit seeking damages for the City's refusal to permit condominium construction as part of the proposed development of a hotel on the Buell property at the comer of Hampden Avenue and University Boulevard. The City also successfully fought off three lawsuits brought against it by the Buck family concerning the development of several small, non-conforming lots in the north-central part of the City.
The City of Cherry Hills Village has prevailed in maintaining its semi-rural character against changing economic trends. Although new development will continue, Cherry Hills strives to preserve its unique character as a quality, single-family residential community in the Denver metropolitan area.