Denver Direct: THE MONEY ZONE

Monday, June 17, 2013


Opinion by Phil Goodstein

One example: This 7-Eleven has an extra (empty)
 story to conform to the new zoning code

The goody-goodies are outraged and shocked. A prime achievement of John Hickenlooper when he was mayor was the adoption of a new zoning code. Supposedly, it was to simplify an exceedingly convoluted document. Planning director Peter Park vowed it would create “a predictable environment for developers.”
Neighborhood activists embraced the effort. They attended and sponsored numerous meetings about the zoning revision. Despite their eagerness to have an input about the code, for quite a while city hall treated the proposed changes as vital insider secrets. The document that city council eventually ratified was bulkier and far more complicated than the zoning code it replaced.

No sooner was the new zoning code on the books, promising more or less to assure stability of existing areas, than neighborhood activists discovered there are countless loopholes in the ordinance. Invariably, these provisions favor developers, especially efforts to put up completely out-of-scale highrises.
Those complaining about this and the way council has primarily sided with the developers have found themselves smeared by the establishment for not showing respect to elected officials. In particular, officeholders have snarled that members of the electorate have “threatened” them by visiting with them at their homes (it is only permissible, seemingly, for politicians to solicit votes by going to residents’ houses, but not to get visits from constituents. The politicians likewise have no shame when they do not respect constituents by barraging them with robocalls.) Even worse, the “threats” have included angry voters stating they might resort to their legal right to launch a recall against council members who support horrid building proposals under the new zoning code.
Those uneasy with the zoning code, the seeming false promises of John Hickenlooper, and the arrogance of city hall are not rabblerousers. On the contrary, they are overwhelmingly affluent citizens. Among them are people living in and about Cherry Creek North and the adjacent Country Club neighborhood. These people have led the charge against the new zoning code by suing the city, claiming the ordinance and building programs are actually illegal. Unlike the poor, who constantly find themselves dumped upon by city planners and improvers, the Cherry Creek/Country Club critics have the funds for court costs—in their fairness and majesty, the courts dispense equal justice to all who have money.
Those loudly bewailing city policies, which include residents stretching from Hentzell Park in far southeast Denver to the Highlands, have no larger perspective. They have not reflected on why the zoning revision was so flawed and convoluted. Nor have they been forthright critics of Hickenlooper’s role in the process. More than anything, many are Democratic Party loyalists who, when push comes to shove, invariably line up behind the party and its candidates, including Hickenlooper. In consequence, even if they win a court ruling or two, they are bound to fail in the long run in view of their lack of an alternative vision or understanding why developers usually triumph in crucial decisions shaping the destiny of the community.