The Denver City Council on Monday night adopted two sweeping long-range planning documents that advocates hope will map and manage where growth and development take place in the city over the next 20 years.
After hearing three hours of testimony from about 50 residents, the council voted 11-1 to approve a comprehensive plan called Denveright and voted 10-2 to adopt a companion plan called Blueprint Denver, which spells out how the city will absorb density and future growth through 2040.
Councilman Kevin Flynn cast the lone dissenting vote on Denveright. He was joined by Councilman Rafael Espinoza in opposing the Blue Print Denver plan.
“I strongly support so much of what is in these plans, particularly the intentionality with which they take on historic systemic inequities among different populations and different neighborhoods,” Flynn said before his votes.
But he added that “the plan leaves me uncertain going forward whose estimation will matter when it comes to guiding density and change. Because of the high aspirational and frequently unspecific nature of the plan, I can’t sit here today and be certain whether the character of southwest Denver will be preserved or disrupted by these plans.”
Espinosa said he is concerned about what he views as a lack of specificity about how Blueprint Denver would be implemented.
“What I feel this plan is missing is the how,” he said
“The how is the key element, and is the source of much consternation by many, myself included,” he added.
“While there are many related and valid concerns, many of which were shared tonight, my vote tonight is about what is missing, the how.”
By accepting the two comprehensive plans — the first to be adopted in Denver since 2002 — the council rejected calls from some neighborhood groups and some mayoral candidates who asked that the vote be postponed until after the May 7 municipal election and possibly a June 4 runoff.
The votes come during a campaign season in which Denver’s unprecedented growth over the last decade has been the predominant issue.
“Denver citizens need more time” resident Loretta Koehler said. “This is too much for one public meeting.”
But advocates countered that there has been plenty of public input — including 25,000 comments — through meetings, outreach and an interactive website during the three years in which plans were crafted.
“Government doesn’t stop for elections,” said Councilman Albus Brooks before voting yes for both measures.
Councilman Christopher Herndon said the planners did a good job of seeking public input.
“I don’t know what more we could have done to connect with the community,” Herndon said.
Several residents, however, said the city wasn’t listening to their concerns.
For example, they cited one aspect of Blueprint Denver that would enable the owners of single-family homes to create “accessory dwelling units” or secondary homes or apartments that share the lot of a larger primary house.
Some West Washington Park residents said such a move would encourage investors to buy houses rather than owners who live in those homes and thus lower the quality of the neighborhood.
But other residents who supported the plan said they would welcome that ability to create secondary apartments to prevent gentrification and displacement.
At the outset of the hearing, opposition and support for the plans were about equally divided. But as the night went on, most of the speakers urged the council to adopt the plans. Some wore blue clothing to signal their support.
Several advocates also praised the plan for including racial and economic equity as part of the planning process.
Kimball Crangle, one of the co-chairs of the 33-member task force that helped draft the plan, said the concept was important to the group.
“Equity is when everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has an opportunity to thrive,” she said.
Sarah Showalter, Denver’s citywide planning manager, said she was glad that advocates were able to show “how much the community feels excitement for these plans.”
“And now we get to implement them,” she added. “That’s what I really feel excited about. The big ideas are in the plans. It’s the right goals and values. And now we get to work putting it into action.”