PR firms and lobbyist groups are expected to be able to morph their political or legal arguments into campaigns that will best advocate for a given client. But two separate controversies dealing with the city’s view plane ordinance this year have awkwardly placed Denver’s most powerful public policy consultancy on opposite sides of the same issue.
The sudden fervor of the Rockies’ World Series chances has amplified the dispute over a property west of Coors Field that is being considered for a rezoning to allow the construction of a building up to 14-stories in height. This could block a large portion of the mountain vista for fans. Opponents of the rezoning wish to have a view plane established that would prevent such obstructions. An article in today’s Rocky Mountain News says that local neighbors have hired a public relations firm to argue for their case.
Acting as a spokesperson for the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, Gina London, told the Rocky that if the view is not protected, it would set a bad precedent, allowing other tall buildings in the area. The article points out that eleven other view planes exist in Denver, most around area parks.
What isn’t mentioned is that London is the senior vice president of CRL Associates. The local PR outfit founded by Maria Garcia Berry has had its hand in just about every major development and ballot initiative of the past 17 years. It is not surprising that Stadium District hired CRL to advocate for the preserving of our city’s beautiful outlooks; it’s just a little ironic since CRL spent the summer mounting a campaign pushing for the opposite position down in Ruby Hill Park. Residents of the southwest Denver neighborhood had been battling Xcel Energy over proposed electrical towers that would pierce the park’s longstanding view plane. While working for Xcel, CRL representatives spoke at City Council hearings in favor of granting the 112-foot poles an exemption from the ordinance. They presented full-color poster displays of the park and packets of data. Residents said they feared that the exemption could set a precedent that would put all of the city’s view planes at risk. Last month, after a complicated agreement was reached between neighbors, the energy giant and CRL reps, Xcel received an exemption from view plane restrictions and the go-ahead to erect the towers.
So is the view plane ordinance a vital tool to protect our city's scenery? Or is it an quaint law that can be smudged when the circumstances are right? Whichever your position, CRL can find a way to make it happen. That is, if you’ve got the dough to sign them up. The idea of creating a Coors Field view plane is scheduled to be discussed at the City Council’s Blueprint Denver Committee meeting tomorrow. Expect plenty of poster displays. – Jared Jacang Maher