As the City of Englewood looks to overhaul its land use and development code, which the city has dubbed Project CodeNext, planning and zoning officials hosted an in-person forum Feb. 17 to hear feedback from the community.
With regulations that have not been updated for nearly 20 years, the city is hoping to meet a roughly 10-month timeline for when its council could adopt new guidelines that could dictate parking and mobility, sustainability efforts and Englewood’s housing supply.
“Given the fact that there’s a lot of investment, building going on not only in Englewood but throughout the metro area, now’s the right time to take a look at the next generation of the character and development of this community,” said Brad Power, director for Englewood’s Community Development Department.
The Feb. 17 forum marked the first of what city officials said would be several public hearings and community outreach efforts. The city plans to begin drafting new code language from April through August, with a final draft appearing before council sometime in November or December.
A large topic of discussion during the forum centered around sustainability and environmental stewardship, which Englewood’s existing guidelines do little in the way of actively promoting, according to Chris Brewster, an attorney and planner for Gould Evans.
“A lot of the time development codes have some hidden barriers to some of the most sustainable practices,” said Brewster, who works with Gould Evans, an architecture and design company, to contract with local governments to help shape new land use and development updates.
Two Englewood residents, through written comments that were read aloud by city staff during the forum, voiced the need for strong environmental promotion in whatever new guidelines the city ultimately adopts, such as abolishing minimum parking requirements.
“This is environmentally friendly as it makes for few cars lining the streets and also preserves the character of its many historic districts. Something to consider,” wrote Melinda Elswick.
Another resident, Janice Brown, wrote that she wanted to see parking that could support electric vehicles.
Britt Fuiks, another Englewood resident, said she hoped to see more options for other modes of transportation besides vehicular, such as elevated lanes that could support cyclists, especially over busy intersections.
Brewster said supporting bike-friendly efforts was a “very strong initiative of the city” and pointed to existing projects already underway, such as the construction of a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists crossing Oxford Avenue that will also give better access to the RTD Light Rail station northwest of the Oxford Avenue and Windermere Street intersection.
Brook Bell, who works in planning for Englewood, said the city is also hoping to improve such efforts with money from the $550 billion federal infrastructure bill that was signed into law in October.
“With a lot of the federal infrastructure dollars that are becoming available, we’re actually working as an organization to look at some of those pedestrian bicycle connections to see if we could accelerate them in terms of their development,” Bell said.
Housing was also a major area of focus, with officials saying that Englewood needed a much more diverse housing supply in order to meet the needs of renters and homebuyers.
New housing initiatives have swept across the metro area as Colorado continues to face an affordable housing crisis that has seen home values skyrocket. Currently, the median price of a home in Englewood is $530,000, signaling to staff a need to increase the city’s housing stock and lower prices.
In their presentation, city staff urged community members to avoid focusing on the density of housing but rather the scale and said there could be room for trade-offs to appease neighborhoods, such as limiting the height of new housing.
The rhetoric of high density has proved to be a divisive one for some homeowners.
During a Feb. 8 public forum hosted by the Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission, city resident Ivan Erwin said he didn’t like the idea of a high-density proposal on the mostly vacant lot of 3600 South Galapago St where 61 condos could be built.
And in January, a few residents of an Englewood neighborhood near 2323 W. Baker Ave., a vacant site that used to be home to an alternative high school, disparaged the idea of 15 new duplexes being built on the land. One resident said the proposal would “destroy this neighborhood” while another feared what having renters in the units would mean for safety.
But the Feb. 17 forum saw no explicit push-back against new housing from community members, while featuring a few who applauded the city’s interest in pursuing a mix of housing options.
Michele Austin, chair of the Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission, told city staff to be prepared for more development proposals in areas where housing hasn’t typically been.
“We’re seeing developers interested in taking some of our properties in Englewood zoned for industry and turning it into residential,” said Austin who, on Feb 8, voted along with five other commissioners to approve the 61 condo-proposal for 3600 South Galapago St, a historically commercial area of the city.
But even as suggestions were given, Brewster told community members that the new zoning plans would only go so far in making such hopes a reality.
“Most of these things we won’t regulate into existence. What the development code can do is have the standards and criteria … so that when those plans do come along we have the right decision-making tools,” he said. “But the code can only do so much.”
Residents interested in learning more about Project CodeNext can click here for more information and updates.