Our Civic Association recently received notice that the rezoning application process for The Green Flats Project aka (219- 245 So. Holly Street) has resumed following a mediation with the neighbors involved, our Assn and the Crestmoor Park Neighborhood Association.

I thought this would be a good opportunity for a recap and an explanation of how the Civic Assn in our neighborhood, Hilltop, manages these matters.

In January 2018, the 7 property owners/residents of 219- 245 So. Holly Street chose to have one representative from their coalition submit an application to rezone their 3 properties from one Multi-Unit and two Single-Unit properties to one Multi-Unit property that would allow them to build a three-story “apartment form” building. (clarification – this terminology does not mean these will be rentals, “apartment form” is just a term used by the city planning dept. The applicants and developer are building townhomes/condominiums for sale, not for rent).

The applicants delivered their application packets to adjacent neighbors and invited them and the Assn board to a meeting on March 4 to learn about the project, ask questions and express their concerns.  It was attended by 15 neighbors and 5 members of the Civic Assn.  Several of the neighbors attending the meeting either live across the alley on So. Hudson St. or in the townhomes on the shared alley with the proposed development and are considered to be “impacted” by the development.  These adjacent neighbors expressed concern about the project for the following reasons:

  • Impact on Holly St and the alley with regards to traffic and safety.
  • Architecture was too urban and did not conform to the surrounding buildings.
  • Too much density.  (27 units)
  • Height of the project and its impact on privacy and their views.
  • Negative impact on property value

I want to pause from this recap to explain our Assn’s process in managing rezoning or matters of possible conflict amongst residents.  The Association views its role this way: we facilitate discussion between the neighbors/residents that are most likely to be impacted and the developer (in this case, also a group of neighbors/residents) and try to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the parties and the neighborhood as a whole.  We do this through meetings both open to the public as well as between the parties involved. Then we encourage residents, (both nearby/impacted and throughout the neighborhood), to use the public input process that is in place to share their opinion on the issues with city staff and the elected officials who will be making the decisions on the application.

The Association has a respected track record in addressing these sometimes (understandably) contentious issues as opposed to other methods (lawsuits) that have not appeared to be successful (Mt. Gilead for example) and are expensive for an RNO like ours with a limited budget to engage in.

Continuing with the recap.

Because of the concerns raised by the  adjacent neighbors, we cast a wider net to the neighborhood and Crestmoor and held a public meeting on March 21 at Graland.  It was attended by 24 neighbors from both Hilltop and Crestmoor, 4 of the Assn board, our city council member Mary Beth Susman and a journalist from the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle.  The same concerns noted earlier were raised and attendees were encouraged to write to the Community Planning Board (CPB) and their elected officials and submit these comments as part of the public comment process prior to the CPB public hearing held on April 4.  Additionally, in conversations on the Nextdoor neighborhood social network discussing this rezoning application, participants were encouraged to submit comments and attend the public hearing.

The Assn took no position on the rezoning.  The applicants for rezoning had requested a zoning district (S-MU-3) that was not consistent with the Neighborhood Context Description for Hilltop (E for Urban Edge). and their application was denied for this reason. The CPB then directed the applicants to meet with the city planning staff to find the appropriate district.  Representatives from the Assn were invited to attend this meeting on April 10..

The Assn initially took a neutral or no position because we did not think we had adequate information to take a position for or against and could not arrive at a consensus.  Our observations from the CPB hearing gave us insight into the board’s thinking and convinced us the CPB might be favorable to a rezoning given the correct zoning district.  The CPB considered the neighborhood context description from the zoning ordinance, but they were also very interested in the specifics of the site; it is located along a “collector” street (Holly), it is located in a “neighborhood center” (the adjacent commercial and religious buildings as well as established multi-unit buildings and both sides of Holly St), and it is along an edge or boundary between neighborhoods.  The CPB were also supportive of the “green” building aspects of the proposed construction and the desire to build housing that would offer more moderate priced choices in the neighborhood, both goals of the City.  This informed the Assn’s decision to try to get the two sides to mediation because we believe a project WILL be built there and it is in the interest of the entire neighborhood to work with the applicants to influence the development.  In the past, this has been achieved through restrictive covenants attached to the  properties to address the adjacent neighbor’s concerns.

At the April 10 meeting,  the applicants were offered two zoning district choices and selected E-MU-2.5 with waivers for an apartment form.  Additionally, at that meeting, city staff informed us of the availability of professional mediators and I requested this assistance.

The rezoning application was then put on hold until the mediation was completed.

The mediator contacted each neighborhood group,  the applicants and adjacent neighbors, separately to hear their concerns.  A meeting was called on May 7 for the adjacent neighbors in order to select representatives to attend the mediation.  At that meeting three representatives were selected from the 22 attendees, one later declined participation and chose a replacement.  All attendees agreed to a set of mediation guidelines and met over June and July to reach an agreement.  The mediator wrote a statement highlighting the points of the agreement and sent the statement to all parties asking for feedback.

Through the mediation process, the neighbors making the application agreed to change their design and agreed to concessions and restrictions beyond what the zoning would require, including reducing the number of units from 27 to 23. Here is the mediator’s report: Green Flats Summary final(b).  10/21 – pls note we temporarily removed this link because we noticed an error and requested a correction from the mediator since it is broadcasting incorrect info regarding the rooftop decks which have, in fact, been eliminated. We have the correct version posted as of 11/1. WR   Here is the latest concept & drawings for the project – The Green Flats.**

**please note that the drawings have an oversight on the third floor listing the number of units.  The units 19-23 have been reduced from 5 to 1 unit but the numbering system was overlooked.  A revised drawing has been requested from the developer and will be posted shortly. 11/12 WR

A meeting of the Assn’s Zoning Committee was then held.  The representatives for  the applicants and adjacent neighbors attended.  After a robust discussion, a consensus was agreed to; that the Committee recommended not opposing the rezoning pending the approval of restrictive covenants placed on the properties. These restrictive covenants were to follow the recommendations in the mediator’s statement.

A meeting of the whole Assn Board was held on July 25.  The Board agreed to the consensus of the Zoning Committee, informed both parties and posted this decision on the Assn website.

Since the mediator’s report was released, the adjacent neighbors notified the mediators and the Assn that they do not find the concessions offered by the Green Flats developer to be sufficient to endorse the project.  The Assn also has not yet received the restrictive covenant from the applicants and failure to receive these covenants will jeopardize our Assn’s position.  We will post these as soon as they are available.

Now that the mediation is concluded, the rezoning process resets and a public hearing for this rezoning application at the CPB is now set for Nov 7 at 3pm in Parr-Widener Community Room of the City and County Building.  This is just one step in this process. We encourage neighbors to review the project and express their thoughts, both pro and con, via the public process.  Direct your email and letters to the case manager, Theresa Lucero  Please note there are deadlines for submitting comments prior to the public hearings!

UPDATE:  The Planning Board met Wednesday Nov 7.  At the hearing, staff presents the case to the board. Here is the Staff Report and Recommendation.  The applicant, who is required to attend, may make a presentation, and interested members of the public may speak on the case.  Once public testimony is complete, the board deliberates and makes a recommendation to City Council for approval, approval with conditions, or denial.  At yesterday’s hearing before the Planning Board, there was one abstention but the rest of the Board voted to support the rezoning.

It was an interesting meeting and discussion.  There were about a dozen people who signed up to speak; Tom Hart, Zoning Committee Chair and Wende Reoch, Acting President, recapped the Civic Association’s process, the covenants, and our Board’s position.  There was also a person from YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) who spoke in favor.  The rest of the speakers opposed the rezoning.  There were a few from our neighborhood but the majority were from Crestmoor (public comment is noted in the record for the meeting and posted (eventually!) on the CPD Meetings Record page.  We thought the Planning Board did an excellent job of addressing the concerns raised and reviewing their process in making a decision.  They noted their appreciation of the Association’s role in advocating for the neighborhood to get the best project.  While the City tries not to get involved with covenants, they made note of this as a good way to maintain some control and set expectations.

The sequence for most cases reviewed by the Planning Board is as follows:

  1. Planning Board meeting (includes a public hearing) – Done – Nov. 7, 2018
  2. Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure (aka LUTI) Committee meeting (public hearing optional and at this point it does not appear to be an option, but we will confirm as soon as we are able and post that here) –  Scheduled for November 27 at 10:30 am in Room 391 of the City and County Bldg, 1437 Bannock Street. 
  3. Denver City Council meeting (includes a public hearing) – Scheduled for January 7, 2019 at 5:30 pm in Room 450 of the City and County Bldg, 1437 Bannock Street. 

The public may continue to submit comments to us and to the staff case manager:  Theresa Lucero, Senior City Planner, at [email protected].  Please reference Case # 2017I-00153

The rezoning process in Denver is explained here.

 

Wende Reoch, Cranmer Park/Hilltop Civic Assn