File this one away in the “residents bucking rapid growth, boundless development and the vanishing character of some Denver neighborhoods” folder.
This week, the City Council approved on a 9-3 vote the rezoning of a 3-acre, vacant parcel in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, paving the way for a residential mixed-use, five-story development. The zoning allows for a wide range of building forms including houses, duplexes, townhouses, apartments and restaurants, offices and retail spaces on the first story. There is no current development plans for the site at the intersection of E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and N. Central Park Blvd., across from Central Park. The property owner was seeking rezoning before marketing the site to developers.
About a dozen Stapleton neighbors lobbied the City Council during a two-hour public hearing to decline the rezoning proposal, citing the awkward juxtaposition of a possible five-story development abutting dozens of single family homes, increasingly congested neighborhood streets and safety issues.
Sharing that sentiment, John Venhoff, who lives just south of the property, said “a five-story structure is totally incompatible with the neighborhood.”
Another Stapleton resident said, “If you allow a five-story monstrosity to be built on that lot, it will destroy the fabric of our neighborhood.”
Neighbor Donna Davis said she has supported the growth in Stapleton since she moved into the area in 2003, but the many cars that will be added to the area with high-density growth is concerning.
In response to neighborhood concerns, Bruce O’Donnell, a spokesperson for property owner Forest City Stapleton, said the landowner has made an informal, verbal commitment to limit building height to three stories on the east and south portions of the property, where development currently exists.
Though she voted no on the rezoning, Councilwoman Deborah Ortega said the agreement on the reduction in stories on two sides is important and could go a long way in finding common ground over resident’s concerns. Even if the property is sold, the covenant remains with the property.
Councilman Chris Herndon, who represents the district containing the property, shared Ortega sentiment, arguing the property owner’s effort to address height concerns is worth noting.
“In this conversation, we have come to a point where the applicant has heard the community and said OK we are going to try to accommodate as best as we can,” Herndon said.
Herndon dismissed resident concerns over traffic, noting the city’s has a department devoted to addressing traffic issues. On parking issues, Herndon said there will be parking requirements attached to new development.
“I believe traffic will increase but I also believe we have a great traffic and engineering department,” he said.
Herndon also disagreed with concerns over safety with new development.
“You lost me on safety,” Herndon said. “I don’t understand how simply adding apartments makes the community less safe.”
Councilman Rafael Espinoza, who cast one of the three nay votes, said his district has been fighting rezoning efforts like this one for the past two years.
“I represent northwest Denver and a lot of that area got rezoned like this in 2010,” he said. “We get really objectionable new construction using the new zoning code and there is not a damn thing we can do about it.”