Lakewood learns the future of its growth on July 2

Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative finally comes to a vote

Posted 6/26/19

John Henderson, who has lived in Lakewood for more than three years, points to the Alta Green Mountain apartment complex, set to open in August, when he talks about why he will vote for the hotly …

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Lakewood learns the future of its growth on July 2

Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative finally comes to a vote


John Henderson, who has lived in Lakewood for more than three years, points to the Alta Green Mountain apartment complex, set to open in August, when he talks about why he will vote for the hotly debated Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, which would give residents a say in what gets developed.

He questions where people will park at the complex, at 13155 W. Mississippi Court, and how it will affect the surrounding neighborhood.

“Lakewood’s community has land where people want to live and work,” Henderson said. “You have that, and you have commercial and financial interest of folks who want to take advantage of those opportunities. Then you have folks who live here, pay taxes and enjoy recreation opportunities here who also have a stake in how the community grows and develops. Their voices have been silenced.”

But at Lakewood City Hall, most strongly disagree, saying the city cares about managing growth in a way that makes it affordable for people to live here. The initiative, they say, would turn Lakewood into another metro-area city, where the housing market has priced out most people.

“I think we’re addressing the issues people are concerned about, but it will take time before people can feel it,” said City Councilmember Jacob LaBure, noting that the city’s Development Dialogue committee exists to listen to residents’ views on growth, change and quality of life in the city. “To me, people are categorizing this as developer vs. the neighborhood, but I don’t see it that way.”

On July 2, the city’s debate over growth will have an answer, as voters say yes or no to the citizen-driven Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, also known as Question 200, that would limit new home construction to 1% per year and require Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve projects with 40 units or more.

Voting ballots were sent out during the week of June 10 and must be returned by 7 p.m. on July 2. Voters can drop off ballots inside and outside of the Civic Center at 480 S. Allison Parkway.

Watching to see what happens

In an environment where residents in other cities also are worried about too much growth, too fast, the outcome in Lakewood may have a ripple effect outside the city, at least one policy observer says.

In 2016, supporters of the Colorado Voting on Limiting Housing Growth Initiative, which aimed to limit housing growth through countywide initiatives and referendums, stated their intentions to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot, according to Ballotpedia, an online encyclopedia of American politics and elections.

Counties such as Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld would have had a limited private house growth of 1% in 2019 and 2020 if the measure were implemented, a limit similar to the one in the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative. The ballot measure failed to qualify for last year’s general election ballot.

“You see this all the time in politics in Colorado — an idea gets tested out at the local level, and then there’s an effort to take it statewide,” Simon Lomax, a policy fellow for EIS Solutions, a public relations firm that works on government affairs, told a crowd at a Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC) luncheon on June 19 at the Jefferson County Courthouse. “There is a statewide ballot measure sitting on the shelf, ready to go, depending on the outcome of what happens on July 2.”

‘This is Lakewood’s time’

Councilmember Mike Bieda, who said he is speaking as a resident and not a public official, believes it is important to keep in mind that the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative was initiated by Lakewood residents. During the summer of 2017, supporters of the initiative collected about 6,192 certified signatures — more than the required 5,165 — to go to City Council. The council then had the option of voting on the initiative, or sending it to residential vote.

“In the end, people are tired of seeing what’s happening in their city,” Bieda said. “They want to keep the neighborhoods the way they are, and that’s why I ran for city council. That’s what (the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative) is about.”

Growth doesn’t pay for itself, Bieda said. He believes revenue generated by existing taxes are not enough to keep up with schools, the fire department, police and other public services — necessities for a community that saw its population rise by almost 12,000 residents from 2011 to 2016.

The West Metro Fire Department, which serves Lakewood, has publicly opposed the initiative. It comes with unintended consequences, such as pricing out working men and women, including firefighters, from Lakewood, West Metro Fire Chief Don Lombardi said.

Bill Furman, a Lakewood resident since 1976, expressed similar concerns.

The initiative, he said, is an effort to halt multi-family development and pointed to concerns that Metro West Housing Solutions, a nonprofit affordable housing agency that operates in Lakewood and Denver, has on the special election.

Tami Fischer, executive director for Metro West Housing Solutions, told a crowd of more than 50 people at the Jeffco EDC luncheon that, should the initiative pass, the nonprofit could no longer compete for low-income housing tax credits. Low-income housing tax credits are the “number one tool” to build affordable housing properties, she said.

The initiative “limits, if not eliminates, a lot of our multi-family housing opportunities,” Furman said. “If you restrict multi-family housing, the rents will go up. What we will see is people who would have been moving to Lakewood, out.”

Cathy Kentner, a teacher in Lakewood, was the proponent of the initiative.

“Voting yes restores community voice, transparency and accountability for large development project decisions which are made behind closed doors,” Kentner said.

For Henderson, regardless of the outcome, the initiative will have a lasting impact.

“This is Lakewood’s time — I’m excited for this opportunity,” he said. “No matter how it comes out, the citizens now have a voice that they didn’t have before.”


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