Lakewood puts together the puzzle of its growth cap

Seven-hour council meeting leads to more clarification for Lakewood’s growth cap

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/5/20

During a Lakewood City Council meeting on Jan. 27 that pieced together the nuts and bolts of the city’s growth cap, Councilmember Mike Bieda expressed the complexity of the ordinance. “It can be …

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Lakewood puts together the puzzle of its growth cap

Seven-hour council meeting leads to more clarification for Lakewood’s growth cap

Posted

During a Lakewood City Council meeting on Jan. 27 that pieced together the nuts and bolts of the city’s growth cap, Councilmember Mike Bieda expressed the complexity of the ordinance.

“It can be simplified real easily by saying well it’s 1% growth and review by council with anything over 40 (units), but it’s not that simple. There’s (15) pages of text, and you can imagine there are many nuances involved in this ordinance,” said Bieda.

The growth cap, passed by Lakewood voters on July 2, requires Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve residential projects with 40 units or more, and it restricts new home construction to 1% of Lakewood’s current housing supply.

But the growth cap isn’t that simple. The 15-page document that establishes the guidelines of the growth cap includes language that requires developers to receive allocations for a building permit and a condition that encourages redevelopment in blighted and distressed areas. Lakewood City Council’s task at the Jan. 27 meeting was to establish its permitting system for allocations and to define what it means for a property to be blighted.

Here are three things that happened at the meeting that lasted over seven hours.

Proposed White Fence Farm apartment complex faces more uncertainty

There were four projects that had applications accepted for building permits before the growth cap became official — but they still haven’t received building permits yet. Those four projects, which include the proposed Novel at White Fence Farm apartment complex, would’ve amounted to 1,075 units being built in Lakewood.

All of those projects are guaranteed to receive allocations for building permits, except the Novel at White Fence Farm project because of the uncertainty it faces.

The proposed project, which would see the former White Fence Farm restaurant turn into a 235-unit multifamily apartment complex, went before Lakewood’s Board of Adjustment last month after a residential group filed an appeal, alleging the project would violate an official development plan for the Wilson Property. The Wilson Property is an 80-acre piece of land at Jewell Boulevard that includes White Fence Farm at 6263 W. Jewell Ave.

The Board of Adjustment split a vote on Jan. 22 over if the apartment complex would violate the official development plan — and in doing so, the residential group’s appeal failed. Mike Beery, a member of the residential group known as Unified Under the Wilson Property ODP, said at the Jan. 27 meeting that if necessary, the group will take its argument to a district court.

In July, Lakewood City Council approved a resolution to allow for all development projects as of July 12 that had properly completed necessary documentation to continue without having to obtain an allocation until Dec. 31 of last year, including those who had not received a building permit. The Novel at White Fence Farm project is in the concept phase of review and has been submitted for approval for the city.

Lakewood City Council voted in favor of allowing the three projects, located at 66 S. Van Gordon, 730 Simms and 2275 S. Wadsworth, to move forward, excluding the Novel at White Fence Farm project. The vote will hold the project from having guaranteed allocations, and therefore, subjecting it to a public hearing and council vote of approval.

“This project has issues that are no secret. We all know about the Board of Adjustment, the litigation, the (appeal), everything that is going on with it and before that, we heard about their status with planning and so forth,” said Lakewood City Councilmember David Skilling.

“It has not done everything that (the July resolution) had envisioned. What we can’t do is placehold that project for some indefinite amount of time,” Skilling added.

413 allocations in 2020

There’s a lot of math involved with the growth cap, but here is how the city came to that number for 2020 and beyond.

The three projects that are allowed to move forward add up to 840 dwelling units. Council decided to reduce allocations available for new projects in 2020, 2021 and 2022 by those 840 dwelling units. That allows for those dwelling units to continue, and thus, reduces the amount of allocations available over those three years.

Dividing up those 840 units by the three years the city is granting allocations to for the three projects gave the city a number of 280 units. After coming to that number, Lakewood subtracted those 280 units from the 693 allocations that would’ve been available for 2020. That gave the city the number of 413 allocations that will be available in 2020 and tentatively for 2021 and 2022.

“It levels it out over a longer period so that we do get more opportunity to meet the diverse needs of our housing as they are evolving (over the three-year period),” said Lakewood City Councilmember Charley Able at the Jan. 27 meeting.

Lakewood has defined blighted

Nowhere in the growth ordinance does it define what it means for a property to be blighted — but Lakewood City Council came to the agreement on a resolution that considers properties in urban renewal areas to be blighted.

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

In Lakewood, urban renewal areas are located at the West Alameda Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Area in central Lakewood, the Colfax-Wadsworth Reinvestment District at the northeast corner of West Colfax Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard and the West Colfax Avenue Corridor Reinvestment Area that runs from Sheridan Boulevard to Simms Street.

Additionally, Lakewood City Council agreed that in the future, it could designate a property blighted. If council were to take that action, a conditions survey would need to be conducted by an independent consultant paid for by a property owner. Following that, the conditions survey would be presented to Lakewood City Council at a public hearing by the property owner and the independent consultant.

After the presentation, council would then determine if the property is blighted, based on urban renewal law.

Some of Lakewood City Council expressed their desires to possibly add amendments to the resolution in the future to make it more tailored to Lakewood’s needs.

“We should allow (the growth ordinance) to turn its way through here for a while. We’ve finally gotten to a point where we’re going to implement it,” said Lakewood City Councilmember Ramey Johnson. “For us to be looking at differences in the (blight resolution) at this point, I think is premature, number one. And number two, I am concerned with people asking to have their property blighted voluntarily. I feel like we’re creating a loophole and it’s going to be a way to circumvent (the growth ordinance). I can’t support this as it is.”

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