Mayors discuss building shelters, avoiding growth caps at annual roundtable

Five metro area mayors speak during Chamber event

Posted 11/18/19
At the annual Mayors Roundtable hosted by the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Herb Atchison of Westminster focused his opening remarks on the relationship between metro Denver mayors. His point was …

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Mayors discuss building shelters, avoiding growth caps at annual roundtable

Five metro area mayors speak during Chamber event

Posted

At the annual Mayors Roundtable hosted by the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Herb Atchison of Westminster focused his opening remarks on the relationship between metro Denver mayors. His point was best made by listing their recent meetups — he'd seen the Arvada mayor in the past 24 hours, the Lakewood and Denver mayors in the past 48, and he can scarcely go two days without hearing from Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker, he said.

And the roundtable served as the mayors' latest gathering, when five area mayors — Atchison, Starker, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Arvada Mayor Marc Williams and Lakewood mayor Adam Paul — joined citizens Nov. 15 at the Arvada Center for a discussion about the issues facing metro Denver today.

The mayors first spoke on homelessness, highlighting some steps in the right direction that the cities have taken over the years.

Williams emphasized the Homeless Navigator program, in place in multiple metro area cities. Through the program, cities have designated staff members to specifically focus on providing homeless individuals with consultation and resources.

But for every step forward, the mayors said, there's also another step to be taken. Multiple panelists said they plan to prioritize the creation of more overnight shelters, particularly for families and particularly in Jefferson County, an area that lacks such facilities.

“You are not going to eliminate homelessness, and we don't have facilities,” Atchison said. Cities and counties must find a way to create such facilities, as his city and others have seen a “reduction” in churches willing to provide one-night shelter because of “liability issues,” he said.

The conversation moved to the need for affordable housing in the area, with panelists agreeing that a main strategy is to incentivize developers to build affordable units.

Paul and Williams also suggested that cities work together not only to provide affordable renting options, but home-owning options as well.

Williams named a few ongoing ideas to implement such options in Arvada, such as planned “micro-housing” projects, which would be homes of 600 square-feet or less on the north side of 58th Avenue, near the Stenger Sports Complex.

“You are seeing (affordable) townhomes and condos being built” as a result of mayors working with legislators, Williams said. “We're looking at creating ways of dealing with this issue.”

On the topic of growth, several of the mayors cautioned against a statewide growth cap. With Lakewood voters having passed a growth cap this past summer, Paul said there are “unintentional consequences of growth limits.”

Atchison agreed that a growth cap “would kill businesses” by preventing new customers from moving into the area.

And Williams, when asked what to do about growth, suggested the cities focus primarily on improving transportation systems and garnering support for measures like Proposition CC, intended to see more taxpayer money go to roads, instead of being returned to taxpayers, which Colorado voters did not pass Nov. 5.

“When people are concerned about growth, it's really traffic,” Williams said. “We've got to get our citizens to the point where they say, 'we've got to fund infrastructure.'”

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