Blog by Jennifer Allan

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New Construction in NW Denver - Do we like it?

WARNING: This blog touches on a hot political issue and unfortunately, I'm not a political kinda gal. So feel free to debate me, but know you're dealing with an unarmed woman.

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about all the in-fill development going on in my ‘hood of Northwest Denver. You can read all about it here. But of course, any time there is development in a neighborhood, there's going to be opposition, and Northwest Denver is no exception. Surprise, surprise, not everyone LIKES the idea of a two- or even three-story duplex going in next door!

Now, it's easy to see why someone might protest. If your neighbor went from being a cute little 900 square foot one storyinfill Bungalow where Mom, Dad, Junior and Spot have lived for years (along with their 1.5 cars), to being a multi-family 2000+ sqft (per unit) modern structure that can house a small fraternity (and ALL those extra cars) AND blocks your sunlight, you might be a little miffed, too. Whether or not you approve of the architectural styling of the new stuff (I love it, but many don't), there's no question that the construction process and the end result will impact your life. Heck, the house next door to me just had its roof replaced and just that was incredibly disruptive to my weekend!

So what's been going on here in Northwest Denver is a nasty fight among and between residents and developers. Now, don't think that the lines are clearly drawn - Big Bad Developers on one side and the Poor, Oppressed Residents on the other - oh, no, plenty of locals are in support of the development, including most of the real estate community (myself included). No, not because we're money-grubbing scoundrels, but because our wonderful neighborhood has a shortage of family-friendly homes... and we hate to see families leave the area due to a lack of adequate housing. This additional supply of livable, marketable homes makes our area that much more attractive and yes, marketable!

The approach the opponents have taken to slow down the development is to push for a "downzoning" of many Northwest Denver blocks. What this means is that if a home has a zoning of "R2" (which allows a duplex), downzoning would change the zoning to R1 which does not. Therefore, nothing can be built on an R1 lot except a single family home.

On the surface, this sounds sort of reasonable. After all, nothing would stop a developer from building a single family McMansion on an R1 lot, so why not just do that? Why must he build a duplex or triplex? Simple economics. Our real estate values in Northwest Denver are such that it's rarely economically feasible to buy a lot and build a single family home on it. Builders must build a duplex or triplex in order to be profitable on their venture.

But who cares about the developers? Why should we locals who aren't planning to move or build anytime soon care about the developers' troubles?

Because taking away our R2 zoning is a violation of our property rights. That zoning, like it or not, is VALUABLE. The R2 land we sit on has value above and beyond selling out to a developer who wants to build a duplex, but hey - if a builder wants to come along and give me a bunch of money so he can tear down my 1927 Bungalow and build something else, I'll listen!

Again, I feel for the residents who have been personally adversely affected by the development. I'd be mad too. I've seen some perfectly lovely older homes lose a big chunk of their appeal (and value) due to the construction of a monster duplex next door. But the answer isn't to take away other people's property rights to protect your own. I don't know what the answer IS, but I'm pretty sure it's something else...


Please be advised that I did very little formal research before writing this blog, so most of the above is personal opinion formed from observation and a few conversations with friends over bottles of wine. If I've missed something critical, please feel free to chime in.