As neighbors – and real estate officials throughout Denver – wait to learn whether City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd will take steps to downzone three parcels in West Highland where a developer plans three, five-story apartment buildings, a neighborhood association is preparing its own vote on the downzoning issue.
“It if the motion passes, and I suspect it will,” the results will be forwarded to Shepherd in a formal letter, said Kevin Neimond, president of the West Highland Neighborhood Association.
“If city council does opt to investigate this issue again, we want to reiterate our earlier position on what we think appropriate zoning would be,” he added. The vote results also might be sent to other city council members and Denver’s Community Planning and Development department, he said.
Vote on Tuesday
The vote is scheduled at the regular WHNA meeting that begins at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Highland Event Center, 2945 Julian St.
In 2010, the three parcels in question on Moncrieff Place, Meade Street and Lowell Boulevard, just north of West 32nd Avenue, were rezoned to U-MS-5, allowing five-story buildings. The previous zoning, R-4, allowed slightly taller apartment buildings, with a limited amount of retail, such as banking facilities.
However, the WHNA had vigorously opposed the U-MS-5 zoning, although many in the neighborhood did not learn of the rezoning until last fall.
In the case of the WHNA, it is a back-to-the-future vote.
“This is not an advocacy vote,” said Steve Kite, zoning chair for the WHNA. Rather, he said, the motion “is to re-affirm our recommendations of the zoning committee that took place during the rezoning process (in 2009 and 2010.) This is to suggest that if council decides to rezone those properties, here are some recommended zoning designations that would be consistent with Blueprint Denver and the Denver Comprehensive Plan.”
The motion suggest that the Moncrieff Place parcel be rezoned to a low-density residential zoning such as U-RH-2, U-TU-B, or U-SU-A.
It calls for the Meade Street and Sechler Electric building parcel to be rezoned to an urban, mixed-use zoning that would allow a maximum of two-story buildings. It notes that is the zoning for a vacant lot at the southwest corner of irving Street and West 32nd Avenue, as well as the vacant Sabor Latino site at West 35th Avenue and Tennyson Street.
The motion also calls for the main church parcel on Lowell to be rezoned to Urban Row House, or U-RH-2, which would allow a maximum height of two stories. RedPeak has the parcels under contract from an investment group headed by Tom Wootten. Wootten has said he will oppose any downzoning.
32nd Avenue in downzoning mix
It also calls for much of West 32nd Avenue, which was rezoned to U-MS-3, which allows three-story buildings, to be changed to U-MS-2, allowing a maximum of two stories.
“The motion is real clear,” Kite said. “It just sort of ties up some loose ends to give as specific recommendations as possible where the zoning committee thought would be a good-zoned district that is consistent within the context of Blueprint Denver and the Comprehensive plan. We’re trying to be helpful in a crunch.”
Kite said he had no idea if the motion carries it would carry any weight with Shepherd’s decision. Shepherd has said she is studying the matter. If she moves to downzone the parcels, she would need to recuse herself from voting. Downzoning would require a super majority of 10 votes from the remaining 12 council members.
An executive with RedPeak Properties said he will get back to InsideRealEstateNews either this afternoon or this weekend, on the motion. Some property rights advocates worry that a downzoning would set a bad precedent and would have a chilling effect on development throughout the city, hurting Denver’s economic vitality. Members of a grassroots group called No High Rises in Northwest Denver, however, argue that they are not anti-development, and would gladly support buildings of a scale that fits in better with the nearby single-family homes in the area. They note that the area is described as an “area of stability,” and not an “area of change,” in Blueprint Denver.
Neimond said that the WHNA has a couple of hundred members.
He said the membership has surged since the RedPeak issue surfaced. Only people who have been members for at least 28 days can vote.
Neimond said he hopes the increased membership will grow into more neighborhood participation on other issues, such as public safety.
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Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com.