Denver Realtors protest West Washington Park's anti-duplex plan

Yesterday, the Denver Board of Realtors made a last-ditch effort to protest a proposal to keep mega-duplexes out of West Washington Park. As we chronicled here last week, Councilman Chris Nevitt's rezoning plan to preserve the bungalow, single-family feel of one pocket of the city has exploded into a controversy about property rights and development throughout Denver's older neighborhoods. After watching similar proposals pass in West Highland, Sloan's Lake and South Park Hill, real estate professionals are worried that downzoning, and its discouragement of dense, new housing is the wave of the future.

"The message that it communicates is: Don't build in Denver," says real estate broker Brad K. Evans, a vocal opponent of the plan.

Evans point out that simply banning duplexes won't get rid of the ugly, mansion-sized houses and pop-tops that neighborhood residents hate. In fact, developers might be encouraged to build bigger, more profitable homes if duplexes are no longer an option. "Ultimately it creates more pressure to tear down houses because then there's less supply," he says.

In a letter yesterday to City Council, the leaders of the Board of Realtors argue that "Denver should be excited about the growing trend of families choosing to live in attached housing," because it's sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and will attract families with kids who can enroll in the city's public schools.

Besides, they point out that during "a serious economic downtown," there's no need for legislative action to slow development--the banks are taking care of that. "Loans are hard to obtain and development has slowed to a crawl," the letter says.

Despite the Realtors' best lobbying efforts, it may be too late to stop the West Washington Park plan. A public hearing and Council vote is scheduled for December 15, but Evans says it's already a done deal. Since Nevitt is proposing the plan, most Council members will be inclined to support it. They don't like stepping on toes in someone else's district; in the future, they'll expect Nevitt to return the favor.

But that doesn't mean people will stop protesting. "This is a city-wide issue and I'm trying to participate as much as possible," Evans says. -- Lisa Rab

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