Lakewood City Council questions what blighted is

City wrangles with how to go about implementing Question 200

Posted 8/28/19

At an Aug. 26 Lakewood City Council study session over implementing the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, Lakewood Economic Director Robert Smith showed a map of areas in the city that could …

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Lakewood City Council questions what blighted is

City wrangles with how to go about implementing Question 200

Posted

At an Aug. 26 Lakewood City Council study session over implementing the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, Lakewood Economic Director Robert Smith showed a map of areas in the city that could still see redevelopment if considered blighted or distressed — something required by the initiative.

As city staff has tried to piece together what blighted means, it turned to state and federal definitions, including urban renewal areas, opportunity zones, low income housing tax credit sites, qualified community development block grant target areas and enterprise zone program areas. If all properties that fall under those categories were defined as "blighted" as far as Question 200 is concerned, then Smith estimates around 40% of the city is still eligible for redevelopment.

“In my opinion there was nothing in this ordinance that would cause people to believe that we were going to apply (the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative) to (about) half of the city,” said Lakewood City Councilmember Charley Able saying it seemed higher than what voters expected.

The topic of blighted areas was heavily discussed at the study session. The Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, known as Question 200, passed by voters on July 2 by more than 5% of the vote. It limits new home construction to 1% of the city's housing stock and requires Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve residential projects with 40 units or more. There was City Council involvement on residential development decisions before the initiative passed.

Among areas that may be considered blighted and primed for redevelopment include areas near Wadsworth and Sheridan and Sixth Avenue to Colfax as they fall under opportunity zones, Smith said at the study session.

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said once the ballot question was passed, it became an “animal” of the city's. Some members of City Council disagreed with each other about how to define blighted, but Cathy Kentner, the proponent of the initiative, said during public comment that blighted should be defined strictly by urban renewal areas.

Urban renewal laws give municipal governments a chance to create urban renewal projects as a way to improve specifically designated blighted areas. Under urban renewal laws, blighted conditions include deteriorating structures and deteriorating site improvements, faulty streets or lot layouts, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, inadequate public facilities, code violations and other factors.

Currently Lakewood has three reinvestment areas — the city's name for urban renewal areas — include the West Alameda Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Area, something the city describes as being a catalyst in transforming land to create a downtown Lakewood like Belmar, the Colfax-Wadsworth Reinvestment District, an area where a Kmart once resided and the West Colfax Avenue Corridor Reinvestment Area, running from Sheridan Boulevard to Simms Street.

As public comment went on, at least three people expressed concerns that the growth cap can stunt growth in areas that are in need of redevelopment, particularly along West Colfax Avenue where the city's 40 West Arts District resides.

In 2006, Lakewood adopted the West Colfax Avenue Action Plan, establishing a vision to beautify and enhance the economic vitality of West Colfax Avenue from Sheridan Boulevard to Indiana Street.

“There's a long list of these people that believed in what we told them. That we would allow new investment,” said Bill Marino, 40 West Arts District board chair and executive director for the Lakewood West Colfax Business Improvement District. “I understand the ordinance is about dwelling units. but commercial development is all about people — people and the folks that become customers and patrons.”

“I'm for all people in Lakewood in all wards, but we have differences and needs,” Marino added.

Other highlights from the study session included an agreement by council to allow Lakewood's planning commission to review affordable housing allocation requests. Part of the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative includes provisions that requires builders to receive growth cap allocations for a building permit. In July, City Council approved a motion that will allow for all development projects as of July 12 that have properly completed and filed necessary documentation to continue without having to obtain an allocation until Dec. 31, including projects that haven't received a building permit yet.

“As we work through implementing this, having the opportunity for additional public comment and conversations to work through any issues with (a) development would be beneficial for everyone. I think that we should have (projects) heard by planning commission — that way the community has more time to get up to speed on (a) project,” said City Councilmember Dana Gutwein.

Lakewood City Council will continue to discuss how to implement the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative throughout the rest of the year.

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