Council, planning commission nix zoning changes

Neighborhood residents pushed back after draft zoning code

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/6/21

Members of the the Golden City Council and Golden Planning Commission discussed at least 10 aspects of the first draft of what will be the city’s updated zoning regulations during a marathon …

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Council, planning commission nix zoning changes

Neighborhood residents pushed back after draft zoning code

Posted

Members of the the Golden City Council and Golden Planning Commission discussed at least 10 aspects of the first draft of what will be the city’s updated zoning regulations during a marathon meeting on March 22.

But it was the last topic to be discussed during the four-hour-plus meeting that seemed to elicit the strongest reactions from both the members of the council and the commission and the broader Golden community.

That issue was the question of whether the updated zoning code should include changes that would ban the construction of massive “McMansions” and encourage the construction of smaller homes in the traditional suburban-style neighborhoods on the city’s periphery.

Golden Senior Planner Cory Miller said the original purpose of the effort to revamp the zoning code, which has been in the works for about a-year-and-a-half, was to address resident concerns about the types of structures being built in the city’s central residential and commercial areas.

The zoning regulations for peripheral areas, which are the only areas of the city zoned exclusively for single-family homes, were not going to be updated because the city had not heard the same types of concerns and complaints about the zoning of those areas that it had from residents of the more central neighborhoods.

But that thought process changed some when the members of the city’s zoning code rewrite task force raised the possibility of applying certain changes that were proposed for the rest of the city, including a limit on the size of single-family homes and a menu of structure “forms” that would be permitted in each zoning district, to those peripheral zoning districts.

That discussion ensued after members of the task force raised concerns about the need to preserve view corridors and other “character” aspects of those neighborhoods - all of which might be able to be done better if the size of builds was limited and construction of smaller homes was encouraged.

City staff, Miller said, also saw a possible benefit to that approach in that it could expand housing stock in Golden and ultimately put some downward pressure on housing costs in Golden,

“We thought people living in rental units across the city could then move up and purchase their first property in the city of Golden and that would free up space on the low end for people to take advantage of rental properties,” Miller said.

Fierce opposition

But when the city released that first draft, which outlined new zoning for those peripheral areas, there was significant pushback from residents of those neighborhoods, including over 50 letters in opposition compared to a “handful in favor.”

That opposition seemed to resonate with several members of the council and planning commission, who spoke out strongly against making changes to the zoning of those peripheral areas. The two groups ultimately decided those changes would be removed from the next draft of the regulations.

John Caskey, the chair of the planning commission, said he was strongly opposed to the change because the idea that it would lead to the creation of more affordable housing in Golden was based on faulty logic. He said the way to bring more affordable housing to Golden is for the city and county to invest in programs that will help fund such housing.

“If you were to scrape these homes in these neighborhoods and a developer could build two or more homes they are not going to be attainable,” he said. “There are a lot of ways we can help with affordability but essentially changing these existing neighborhoods is a bridge too far.”

Councilman Casey Brown said he saw no need to “antagonize or push for changes the neighbors don’t think would be keeping with the character of their neighborhood.” However, he argued that the city should still incorporate those communities in the updated code, while not changing the existing regulations governing them, so that the code could cover the entire city with a consistent format.

“I would like to just keep the R-1 and R-E zoning covered in there and keep the material in there and that way the language is speaking to R-1 and R-E and that way if we ever want to change it later that is easier to do,” he said. R-1 and R-E are the single-family zoning restrictions that cover those neighborhoods.

That suggestion was ultimately settled upon by both councils, which directed the city to include those peripheral neighborhoods in the new zoning code but keep their zoning requirements the same.

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