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January 4, 2019 / Comments (0)

General News

Tom Hart, A.I.A.
Zoning Committee Chair
Cranmer Park/Hilltop Civic Association

4 January 2019

Dear Hilltop Neighbors,

Those of you who have been following the proposed rezoning of 219-245 South Holly Street, otherwise known as the “Green Flats”, know that it will be heard at the next City Council meeting.  Those of you who have not been following this issue, or those that simply want an update on it, may review our Association website page regarding it at http://denverhilltop.com/zoning/the-green-flats-project-so-holly-st/, where we have been providing frequent updates and notices.  The Council meeting will be held this coming Monday, January 7th at 5:30pm in the Council chambers, Room 450 of the City and County Building.

There is some misinformation being circulated in the neighborhood, therefore I thought I’d update everyone so you know the facts and understand the solutions- oriented approach and position that your Association Board has taken.  I’ll also be asking for a favor at the end of this letter.

The properties involved are between the “Park Burger” building and the townhouses at the corner of Holly Street and Alameda Ave.  They consist of a five-unit multi-unit building and two single-family houses.  The apartment building property is currently zoned E-MU-2.5.  The single-family properties are currently zoned E-SU-Dx.  The request is to rezone all properties to that of the current multi-unit building property (E-MU-2.5) with a waiver to allow apartment buildings to be 2.5 stories, matching other allowable buildings in our zone district.  (Currently, an apartment building is limited to 2 stories, although oddly they may be 35’ tall – the same height that current zoning allows for all other buildings in our neighborhood.)

Your Association’s goals throughout the past year have been to get the best possible project for our neighborhood and to have some control over what will be built.  We are aware that an apartment building could be built “by right” on the existing E-MU-2.5 property that could contain 20 units.  We are also aware that the existing E-SU-Dx properties would then be vulnerable to rezoning and those properties could allow up to an additional 25 units, for a potential total of 45 units on the entire property.  We also believe that these properties – being located along a connector street, adjacent to a neighborhood center, adjacent to other multi-family properties on both sides of Holly Street, along an edge of our neighborhood and within a half block from the transit corridor along Alameda Avenue, are an appropriate location for increased density that would provide housing that is more easily affordable than is currently available in Hilltop.

Your Association arranged several public meetings over this past year when the current owners and their developer presented their ideas and neighbors had a chance to express any concerns they had.  Subsequently, we requested the services of a professional mediator.  The mediation participants included a representative of the applicants/owners, the developer, two members of our Association (the Acting President and myself), and the following participants chosen by neighbors at a planning meeting with the mediator on May 7: a representative of the adjoining neighbors on Hudson St/Hilltop Townhomes, the owner of the adjacent commercial property, and a representative of the adjacent RNO – Crestmoor Park Neighborhood Assn.  The commercial property owner dropped out after the first mediation session and was replaced, at the request of the adjoining neighbors, by another representative of the adjacent RNO, which we readily agreed to as a courtesy to the neighbors and it made sense to involve them.

All agreed to negotiate in good faith, concessions were made on all sides and the mediation was concluded with the mediator issuing a report that was based on agreement among the participants.  The participants of the Crestmoor RNO and then the adjoining neighbors then took the mediation report to their groups and the groups voted not to accept the mediation agreement.

Your Association ultimately voted to not oppose the rezoning contingent on approval of covenants that were based on the mediator’s report.

The covenants we have approved include the following items from the mediator’s final report:

  • The maximum number of dwelling units will be limited to 23 units – a 15% reduction from the 27 units of the original proposal.
  • The buildings will be a maximum of 35’ tall – the same height that current zoning allows in our entire neighborhood.
  • No rooftop decks will be allowed above the third story.
  • Sight lines from all decks to adjacent properties are to be minimized through architectural and landscaping features.
  • The buildings are not to violate the City’s minimum setback requirements for the Primary Street (front) and side property lines. The third story shall be set back 10’ from the front of the buildings and 7.5’ from the sides of the buildings adjacent to the north and south property lines.
  • The buildings are to have a minimum rear setback of 40’ to the buildings and a minimum of 65’ to habitable space from the alley.  Current zoning would require only a 12’ minimum rear setback.
  • The back wall of the garage along the alley is to be 17’ tall to provide privacy for neighbors across the alley.
  • Onsite parking will be provided for 36 cars, plus bikes.  This represents 50% more parking than is currently required – current zoning would require parking for only one car per unit (23).  (the plan is to provide a single point of access to the parking from the alley, not from Holly Street)
  • Trees will be provided for the neighbors across the alley to help address privacy concerns.
  • Exterior finish material shall be brick.
  • Minimal light trespass will be allowed onto neighbor’s property.
  • No short-term rentals will be allowed.

It is important to note that the covenants we have negotiated will not be recorded on the properties or enforceable unless the rezoning is approved. 

Once in place, the covenants will continue on the properties regardless of who develops them.  If the current owners sell the properties or hire a different developer, we will still have the covenants in place; but only if the rezoning is approved.  The covenants set maximums and minimums that are more restrictive than the current zoning code would allow – like speed limits these restrictions cannot be violated, however that does not mean a future development needs to push these limits; there is always the possibility that fewer units could be built, more parking could be provided, etc., depending on future market conditions. Acknowledging that development will happen on this site is simply pragmatic.  As I mentioned earlier, our Association’s goals have been to get the best possible project for our neighborhood and to have some control over what is built.  In our view, it is not worth the gamble to merely object to the proposed rezoning.  We wanted to work toward a solution that locks-in future protections for our neighborhood. 

This has been a particularly difficult matter for our Association as it involves opposing sets of our neighbors: the applicants living on So. Holly Street vs. nearby neighbors who primarily reside on the adjacent (Hudson) street across the alley and in the Townhouse PUD next to proposed rezoning site.  We understand the concerns of all parties, have welcomed dialogue and have not in disregarded anyone.

The suggestion has been made that since we did not “poll” our neighborhood we do not care for your opinions.  This could not be further from the truth.  We have closely monitored discussions at the meetings we held as well as other comments that have been posted online or received via email.  The simple truth is that our neighborhood contains over 2,500 households and we do not have the contact information for everyone. We also do not have the manpower or monetary resources to hire a professional pollster to compile a scientifically meaningful poll.  As we’re all aware, what “facts” are presented and how questions are posed can have a profound effect on the results of a poll.  Asking a question such as, “Do you support the rezoning of the property to allow the construction of 27 apartments?”, may seem neutral.  However, asking, “Do you support the rezoning of the property along with restrictive covenants that would limit the construction of no more than 23 units vs. the construction of 45 units that could be allowed under the current and potential future zoning?”, would produce a completely different response.

Now for the favor:  The City is collecting letters from the community in preparation for the Council meeting next Monday.  While it is too late to send in letters that would be individually reviewed by Council members, letters received before the hearing will be tallied as being in support of, or opposed to, the rezoning.  We encourage all to send your feedback, but would really appreciate those of you that support your Association’s solutions-oriented approach to this issue, the covenants that we’ve negotiated, and our position to not oppose the rezoning.  Attending the hearing and speaking in favor of the rezoning would be appreciated as well.

Please refer to the addresses: 219–245 South Holly Street and Case #20171-00153.   Email your comments directly to City Council at: [email protected].  City Council accepts comments until 3:00 PM the day of the public hearing.   

Thank you,

Tom Hart, A.I.A.
Zoning Committee Chair
Cranmer Park/Hilltop Civic Association

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