Proposed apartments hit roadblock as commission denies variance

Developer seeks to construct 129 units on five acres in north Golden

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/14/21

The Golden Planning Commission has denied a developer’s request for a variance from city density rules that would have allowed it to construct 129 apartment units in north Golden. Maryland-based …

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Proposed apartments hit roadblock as commission denies variance

Developer seeks to construct 129 units on five acres in north Golden

Posted

The Golden Planning Commission has denied a developer’s request for a variance from city density rules that would have allowed it to construct 129 apartment units in north Golden.

Maryland-based developer Crossbeam Capital had requested the variance as part of the approval process to greenlight the development, which it is calling the Canyon View Apartments, near the intersection of Golden Gate Canyon Road and U.S. 93. The development would be constructed on roughly five acres just to the west of the Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Center.

Crossbeam’s development proposal called for the development to consist of 38 studio units, 64 one-bedroom units and 27 two-bedroom units. Those units would be priced at middle income levels, which is defined as between 80 and 120 percent of local Area Median Income.

That would mean the maximum rental cost for a studio would currently be $2,100 while a studio could be priced at up to $2,700. The developer said it would commit to keeping the units priced at middle income levels for at least 20 years.

Crossbeam had previously been proposing that the project consist of 150 units but revised that number down following the initial portion of a public hearing held on Dec. 29 to avoid needing to also request a variance to existing parking rules.

Under city rezoning rules, the site is zoned to allow a minimum lot area per dwelling of 2,100 square feet, which would limit the site to a maximum of 104 units. Crossbeam’s proposal would require a lot area per dwelling of 1,709 square feet.

In documents provided to the planning commission, Golden city planning staff indicated that it was recommending approval of both the variance and the project as a whole because the proposal met all other applicable city requirements for setbacks, height and sustainability and “would provide high quality attainable housing for middle income earners in Golden.”

Staff also noted that the city had only began requiring 2,100 square feet of minimum lot area per dwelling for the relevant zoning classification for the site in 2019 and had not tested it for a project of the size of the one proposed.

The recommendation went on to state: “Staff’s favorable recommendation for this project considered that both the North Neighborhoods Plan encouraged a diversity of density in appropriate areas in the north part of the City, and the Comprehensive Plan encourages affordable housing to be dispersed throughout the community and not just concentrated in central Golden.”

“There are not many opportunities in the north neighborhood for density diversity and this particular location is not directly adjacent any of the single-family areas predominant in the North Neighborhoods.”

However, multiple members of the council said that they did not feel a variance was justified under city zoning law, voting 6-1 for denial.

The zoning code allows for variances to be granted in the case of “exceptional narrowness, shallowness or shape of a specific piece land as well as exceptional topographic or other conditions of the property.”

In its proposal, Crossbeam suggested the property met those requirements because the site includes major elevation changes that would reduce their ability to build in certain spots.

But Commissioner Patty Evans was among the commissioners who said did not share that view.

“I think the main finding is that there is no evidence of a hardship that would allow us to grant the variance,” she said.

That view was shared by several commissioners, who praised elements of the project’s concept but said they did not see a basis for a variance in the code.

“I actually really like this project,” said Planning Commissioner Jen Rutter. “I wish it could meet the development standards because I like the fact it is modular and that it is going to provide a whole bunch of residential housing units for people.”

Rutter also said that she thought the project could explore options for a zoning amendment that would allow it to meet city standards and proceed.

While the variance was denied, the council will meet again on Feb. 3 to discuss and vote on the proposed site plan for the project as well as a plan for the city to borrow housing allocations for the next five years for the project.

Although the project cannot proceed as proposed without the density variance, Golden Planning Manager Rick Muriby recommended the council take a vote on all aspects of the proposal in case the commission’s ultimate denial of the project is appealed to the Golden City Council, which Crossbeam would have the option of doing.

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