Lakewood Mostly Closes A Loophole For New Growth Limit, For Now

West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, Aug. 7, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
West Colfax Avenue, in Lakewood, Aug. 7, 2019.

The Lakewood City Council on Monday dialed back an exception to the city’s new 1 percent limit on residential growth.

Question 200, which voters passed by a 53-47 margin in July, exempted “blighted’ areas from the limit. But it did not define what blight means. 

“Staff knew, as soon as this ordinance was presented, that defining blight was going to be one of the most sensitive topics to deal with,” Lakewood City Attorney Tim Cox told the Council in a study session Monday.

City staff put forward a map that contained wide swaths of the city — urban renewal areas, opportunity zones, Colorado enterprise zones, and others — that would have been spared from the limit. But City Councilwoman Ramey Johnson said that broad definition undermined the voter-approved limit.

"I’m already having a developer call me to see if his land can be designated as blighted. I don't think that the voters' intent was that 40 or 50 percent of our land mass would be exempt from this,” Johnson said. “I'm having some problems with that."

The City Council instead said they’d use the most narrow definition: urban renewal areas. Those cover much of the West Colfax and Alameda Avenue corridors, but little else in the suburb west of Denver.

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said he's working to implement the limit and honor the will of the voters. He also wants more of the city to be exempt from the growth limit and said the council would take up the issue again this fall.

“I hope we can expedite it,” he said after the meeting. “We are already seeing investment leave. So the sooner we can address this the better.”

Cathy Kentner, one of the growth limit’s organizers, said the growth limit is meant to force the city to listen to its residents. She urged the mayor and his staff to not try to subvert the limit. 

“There’s not much that can be done, other than to follow it at this point,” she said. 

More than 60 members of the public watched the discussions from the City Council chambers. Of those who spoke, most were against the limit and wanted the city to make the exception as wide as possible.

“I’ve seen my area go down the tubes, and I’ve said this up here umpteen hundred times. And I want to see it go up,” said Madeline Nichols, who said she lived near Sheridan Boulevard south of Colfax. “We need young people. I’m getting old and tired and I want to see things move forward.”