Following months of input from Denver City Council members regarding a proposal to overhaul group-living aspects of the zoning code, city planners have committed to decreasing the recommended number of unrelated adults who can live together in the same household.
"These revisions are aimed at being practical and taking into consideration what we’ve heard in our discussions at [council committee] and in our one-on-one meetings with councilmembers. Our goal is to get to something that we believe will be adoptable," says Andrew Webb, the senior city planner leading the group-living zoning overhaul.
Webb will be at a December 1 council committee meeting to share a revised proposal that would cap the number of unrelated adults who can live together in the same household at four, five or six. That's a decrease from the previously proposed base of five, with the possibility of increasing up to ten depending on household square footage. Currently, only two unrelated adults can live together in the same Denver home, although unlimited relatives are allowed — and that would continue to be the case under the new proposal.
The Denver Department of Community Planning and Development has worked on the plan since March 2018, with the goal of updating the zoning code's treatment of group-living situations to match current realities and address affordability issues.
The proposal also seeks to increase the number of areas in the city that could allow halfway houses. In the latest iteration, city planners have watered down the halfway-house provisions by adding more restrictions regarding where and how they can be established, though these restrictions would be much less burdensome than the ones currently in place.
The changes came mainly in response to feedback from councilmembers, and appear to be moving the proposal to a position where it could pass out of the committee and move on to a full vote of Denver City Council.
"I reviewed this last night and appreciate that the proposal is moving in the right direction," says Councilman Kevin Flynn, who has implored city planners to tone down the proposal. Still, he adds, "many unresolved issues remain to be nailed down before, as a package, many of us could support it."
Members of city council aren't the only ones who've been pushing back: A group of residents banded together under the name Safe and Sound Denver to lobby against the proposal. In early November, the group sent out an email to a listserv, encouraging residents to contact their council representatives, ask them to "Vote NO on the Group Living Zoning Code Amendment!" and tell them that there should be "NO Experiments in Denver Residential Neighborhoods!"
Despite the opposition, proponents of the group-living changes have continued to push the changes as a way to increase affordability in Denver and cater to different types of households. Community Planning and Development still expects to move forward with the proposal for a potential full council hearing and vote in late January or early February.
If Denver City Council ends up approving the group-living zoning overhaul, Community Planning and Development plans to propose an ordinance that would ensure the regulations related to household size apply to all areas of the city. Current policy prevents such zoning changes from applying to the approximately 20 percent of the city still zoned under the pre-2010 zoning code.
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