Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Denver is thriving and growing and being redeveloped at a rapid clip — to the dismay of some residents grappling to preserve the vanishing character and charm of their neighborhood.
Take the case of a rezoning proposal before the Denver City Council on Monday. Property owner Urban Land Acquisitions LLC requested a 0.24-acre lot at 1208 N. Quitman St. be rezoned to allow for a five-story development with a mix of residential and non-residential (like retail) on the ground floor. The zoning would also allow for an all commericial-use development, though square footage would be limited to 10,000 square feet. There isn’t yet a development plan for the site.
But the possibility of a five-story building in the West Colfax neighborhood filled with single-family homes and three-story, multi-unit buildings didn’t sit well with some residents. About half a dozen neighbors voiced their concern about the zoning proposal during a public hearing Monday night. And, the city received 27 letters in opposition and 26 in support, including the Sloan’s Lake Citizen Group, Senior City Planner Theresa Lucero said.
Bruce O’Donnell, spokesperson for property owner, noted the owner has listened to the neighborhood concerns, mainly focused on the possible height of the building, and has proposed a covenant that would restrict height to four stories and 55 feet on the lot for the next 25 years.
Nonetheless, neighbors advocated for the City Council to recommend the owner amend the rezoning request to allow for three stories, mixed-use on the parcel, to help maintain some of the character of the neighborhood while allowing for redevelopment. (There is a zoning district that would allow for three-story, mixed-use, but it didn’t exist when the owner initially filed the proposal. Council President Albus Brooks was miffed this zoning district wasn’t part of the discussion in light of height concerns before the proposal reached the full council).
But, arguing it is bound to consider a rezoning proposal based on whether it meets defined criteria, the City Council approved the measure 8-3. Brooks and Council members Rafael Espinoza and Kevin Flynn cast the nay votes.
“It’s in compliance with our plans, it’s in compliance with the West Colfax neighborhood plan and it’s not the only development in the neighborhood,” Councilman Paul Lopez, whose district encompasses the neighborhood, said of the rezoning proposal.
Espinoza wasn’t convinced the zoning proposal was in agreement with adopted plans.
“Philosophically, my heart is in this sort of zone district, but I cannot support it because I don’t think it has valid plan support that it needs in order for us to grossly say the criteria has been met” he said.
Acknowledging that Denver is growing, neighbor John Buckner characterized development in his area as both a benefit and a curse. Since moving into the neighborhood in 2013, his block has been inundated with multi-unit developments, leaving unrecognizable the neighborhood he knew when he moved.
The area is rapidly changing, Lucero noted during a presentation. Eight multi-unit developments have gone up in the last three years, and four more are currently under review.
“We are seeing rather rapid redevelopment of the area,” Lucero said.
With the site next to the Perry Street light rail station, high-density development makes sense, Council members said. The city has increasingly encouraged such development by public transit to encourage commuters to use the train instead of drive.
“What good is a light rail station around a bunch of single-family homes?” Lopez said.