High-density housing freeze brings big gun AFP to suburban Lakewood - Colorado Politics
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High-density housing freeze brings big gun AFP to suburban Lakewood

Author: Dan Njegomir - July 17, 2017 - Updated: July 17, 2017

A growth-control proposal would have reined in residential construction, like these units at Lakewood’s Belmar redevelopment. (via YouTube)

Americans for Prosperity-Colorado — part of the pro-free market, Koch brothers-funded national political behemoth — typically has bigger fish to fry. Like challenging renewable-energy mandates or advancing school choice.

The state AFP chapter’s latest initiative, however, involves a matter of hyper-local importance in west metro Denver’s Lakewood. At a study session scheduled for tonight, the City Council will have a look at a sixth-month moratorium on new multi-family housing developments in the city. Apartments, condos, townhouses — construction of any and all would be frozen under the proposal by council veteran and onetime Republican state Rep. Ramey Johnson. The growth-embracing AFP thinks that’s a bad idea.

In a press statement last week, AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory called the proposal “government intrusion in the free market system” and elaborated:

“City council is not elected to abuse their power by stopping what the market demands in terms of housing. When the long arm of government reaches in to hinder this process, it artificially forces the cost of rents to go up. This cost of living increase will hurt the citizens of Lakewood. As for developers, they have no incentive to spend their money and overbuild, which would lead to a poor return on their investment. We say, let the demand of the market take its proper course.”

AFP promises “social media advertising and grassroots efforts” in its fight against the proposal.

Johnson’s campaign website (she’s seeking re-election) devotes a page to her proposed moratorium:

High density and high profile building is bringing traffic congestion to the point of near de-fault on our streets, increased crime and negatively impacting our schools. Obviously these things were NOT intended.

Since 2014 City Council has been lobbied by YOU the people regarding the way Lakewood is developing and growing and we must act. Frankly, we can not wait any longer. We will not have a second chance to get our growth right. A moratorium is NOT looking at any price point of building, but rather ALL high density.

This is not a “zero sum game” where it is us vs them or who is a winner vs loser.

The GOAL is to keep Lakewood a desirable place for those who already live here and those who will join us.

The moratorium as proposed, according to Johnson’s website:

  • Allows time for City Council to “listen” to what the people are telling us about the kind of city they envision and what we are actually creating without the pressure of on-going development.
  • A way to give City Council a short “pause” or “time out” to spend on language in the zoning ordinance dealing with density. …

…among other touted benefits.

The blog LakewoodPols.com refers to Johnson and fellow council member David Wiechman as “reformers” at odds with what it calls the council’s “establishment” majority, led by Mayor Adam Paul. In a June 10 post, the anonymous blog — which seems to be no fan of development — casts the mayor and majority as pro-growthers and points to an even more far-reaching effort afoot in the community to rein in growth:

Since the current City Council, under Adam Paul, is unable (or unwilling) to control or limit the rash of new residential development (mostly apartments), a citizens group has proposed a Strategic Growth Initiative to place an issue on November’s ballot that would impose a 1% per year growth limit on residential construction.

The post references www.LakewoodStrategicGrowth.org for more information on the pending initiative.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.

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