This post follows up on a post from August about a citizen initiative to limit residential growth in Lakewood, Colorado.

In Lakewood, Colorado’s fifth largest city, citizens associated with Lakewood Neighborhood Partnership submitted a petition for a “strategic growth” initiative last July. The initiative aims to limit the growth of residential housing units to 1% annually, and would require that the Lakewood City Council approve all projects with forty or more housing units. The unelected planning commission currently has final decision authority over multifamily site plans and subdivisions in Lakewood.

The proposed ordinance is very similar to ordinances that have been in effect in Boulder since 1978 and in Golden since 1995. The initiative contains a system of “allocation pools” to distribute housing unit permits to individual projects, and “banking plans” to accommodate projects with multi‑year build outs. At the beginning of every year, the city will estimate the number of dwelling units which exist on December 31 of the prior calendar year by dividing Lakewood’s population by average household size. Finally, divide that figure by 100 (1% growth), and that’s the “allocation” of permittable housing units for the year.

For example, the U.S. Census estimates Lakewood’s population (as of July 2015) to be 152,381 with average household size of 2.30 persons. If the initiative were in effect in 2016, the allocation would have been 663 housing units (152,381 ÷ 2.30 ÷ 100). Looking at Census figures for population growth, Lakewood gained 2,012 people in 2016, which would have required approximately 875 housing units. That’s a shortage of almost 25%. In 2017, the city actually issued building permits for a total of 924 residential units.

The Common Sense Policy Roundtable, a business‑sponsored think tank, released a report in October 2017 that warned the Lakewood initiative would result in the “displacement” of as many as 4,100 households over the next ten years.

Under the proposed ordinance, developers of projects with multi-year build outs would need to submit a “banking plan” that outlines how many units their project will contain, and over how many years those units will be rolled out. The planning commission must approve banking plans for projects of more than 40 units. However, the planning commission’s approval does not bind city council, which retains authority to approve any commitment of future allocations, and the approval of a banking plan does not create a vested property right to develop banked units.

Proponents submitted their petition to the City Clerk in July expecting that voters would decide on their initiative in the 2017 election. The clerk verified the signatures, but Steve Dorman, a conservative activist in Lakewood, challenged the signatures on the basis that the proponents did not adequately advise signatories about the contents of the initiative. Following two days of administrative hearing in August and September, the City Clerk found in favor of the petitioners, clearing the initiative for the November ballot. Then in October, Dorman challenged the clerk’s findings in Jefferson County District Court under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 106(a)(4). Based on the most recent filings in Dorman v. Lakewood, the trial court is probably a few months away from reaching the merits of case, but a Rule 106 review gives the government—in this case City Clerk—the benefit of a deferential standard of review. Even if Dorman prevails, the proponents of the Lakewood strategic growth initiative could re‑circulate petitions before the deadline in August.

On Thursday, the Denver Election Division released the final unofficial vote totals for the 2017 municipal election, and it appears that Initiative 300 will pass with 54% of the vote.  We discussed the Green Roof Initiative in a post on October 24, but now that the measure has passed, we need to take another look at how its requirements will affect real estate development in Denver moving forward:

  • The Ordinance only applies to buildings of 25,000 square feet or more of Gross Floor Area, a term defined in the Denver Zoning Code.
  • “Industrial buildings” have a lesser coverage requirement than other buildings.
  • “Residential buildings” less than four stories are exempt.
  • The ordinance only applies to “building permit application[s]” and “site plan[s]” submitted on or after January 1, 2018. Because neither of these terms is defined in the Zoning Code, we expect the Community Planning and Development Department to provide some guidance as to which applications and site plans qualify.  When the City passed the Affordable Housing Fee in 2016, the City did not impose the fee for projects that had Concept Plans officially logged with the City by December 29.
  • The ordinance applies to all “roof replacements” for buildings with 25,000 square feet or more of Gross Floor Area. The ordinance does not define “roof replacement,” so again we will be looking to Community Planning and Development for guidance on this provision.

We will closely follow the implementation of this ordinance and provide updated information as it becomes available.

California Investor Buys former StorageTek/ConocoPhillips Campus in Bid for Amazon

In a bid to have Amazon select Boulder County as its much-ballyhooed second headquarters, California’s Bancroft Capital recently went under contract to purchase the 432-acre property (depicted below) in Louisville that is the former home of StorageTek.  The property is currently owned by ConocoPhillips. Bancroft also developed the Peloton project in Boulder. Continue Reading Updates from Boulder County: A Bid for Amazon, Google Buys Property, and Senior Housing

On Monday night, the Denver City Council approved an ordinance creating Denver’s fifty-third historic district: Packard’s Hill Historic District. Located in the West Highlands neighborhood, the District spans north to south from 35th to 32nd Avenue, and east to west from Lowell Boulevard to Perry Street.  The new district encompasses eight city blocks, and includes thirty-nine Queen Anne-style houses, twenty-nine bungalows, and twenty-six classic cottage houses dating from the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Continue Reading Denver City Council Designates Packard’s Hill Historic District in West Highlands

David Brewster, a summer law clerk with Otten Johnson, authored this post. David is a rising third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Rapid population growth and lagging infrastructure development in the Denver Metro Area are re-energizing a debate between advocates of long term growth strategies and “slow-growth” advocates. Recently, a Lakewood-based grassroots group known as Strategic Growth for Lakewood submitted more than 7,500 signatures supporting a growth management initiative for the upcoming general election. The initiative’s proposed ordinance would limit new residential unit developments to 1% of exiting units in a given year. Additionally, the ordinance would require City Council approval and public hearings for projects of 40 or more residential units. Continue Reading Revitalizing a Rocky Mountain Debate: “Slow-Growth” Strategies v. Long-Term Planning