West Wash Park rezoning fight gains steam

In October, we introduced you to  the battle over monster duplexes and neighborhood character in West Washington Park. Now, as a December 15 City Council hearing approaches, the controversy is exploding into a debate over the future of development in Denver's older neighborhoods.

Some residents in West Washington Park want to rezone a portion of their neighborhood to allow only single-family homes. They're tired of watching small bungalows get scraped and replaced by monstrous duplexes, which they say block their views and ruin the close-knit character of the neighborhood.

Councilman Chris Nevitt has proposed rezoning one part of the neighborhood, and an eighteen-month moratorium on "lot assemblage" in another area -- meaning that developers can keep building duplexes, but only if they already own 6,000 square-foot lots to fit them on.

He says this idea fits with the city's overall land-use plan, known as Blueprint Denver, which designates some neighborhoods "areas of stability" and others "area of change." The "change" areas are places where the city wants to encourage development, while the stable areas are supposed to be preserved. In Nevitt's view, West Washington Park's label as a "single-family area of stability" means it shouldn't have as many new homes built. Keeping a lid on building there will increase development in the "change" areas, he reasons.

But that's blasphemy to some civic leaders who have spent their careers begging for more development in Denver. As the rezoning proposal comes closer to a vote, Nevitt is facing the wrath of critics who think it will reduce property values and infringe on the rights of homeowners.

"I'm against hostile downzoning," says Councilman Charlie Brown. "We're supposed to represent people who live in small homes, medium-sized homes, and yes, I know it's hard to believe, but even large homes." 

The controversy could have ripple effects for the whole city, if a planned zoning code update meant to implement Blueprint Denver is ever finished. Already, residents of West Highland and Sloan's Lake have won their rezoning fight against monster multiplexes -- get details in the April feature "Hideous Homes of Highland" -- and a similar down-zoning plan in South Park Hill passed last month.

To see how the West Washington Park episode unfolds, stay tuned for the Council meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. on December 15 in the City and County building, 1437 Bannock Street.--Lisa Rab

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