Littleton City Council unanimously OKs new land-use code

First change to land use development in nearly 40 years

Littleton City Council, during Tuesday's meeting, unanimously approved a sweeping new land-use code, the first in nearly 40 years, that will govern future commercial and residential development as well as set the standards for neighborhoods and the downtown area. 
The Unified Land Use Code (ULUC), which began being drafted in 2018, makes up part of the city's multipronged 20-year roadmap known as the Envision Littleton Comprehensive Plan.
City staff members have long rallied around a new land use code, lamenting what they have called antiquated zoning guidelines that have not been updated since the 1970s and that segregate land uses to certain parts of the city. 
City Manager Mark Relph called the lack of change “inexcusable” and praised the current council for having the “political will” to adopt the ULUC.
“No doubt other staff members and councils of the past wanted to take on this issue and tried but I think for the first time we've come together here with an approach that I believe is lasting,” Relph said. 
The new code will allow for expanded mixed use development, meaning commercial and residential, primarily along major corridors such as Santa Fe, Broadway and Littleton Boulevard.
The plan, in certain areas, calls for up to 75 units per acre for multi-family housing and 85 units per acre for mixed-use development and could authorize the building of up to 6,500 new homes.
It also outlines ways to invest in development to complement a variety of transportation types, as well as support green spaces by ensuring between 10% and 20% tree canopy coverage per district. 
Though it opens the door for a new era of development, city staff pledged it would not alter the city's character in any fundamental way. 
“We know how hard in our own personal human nature it is to sometimes accept change,” said Kathleen Osher, director of community services for community and economic development for the City of Littleton. “The ULUC is an evolution in our strategy to manage change and growth so that our identity and quality of life endure.” 
The plan will consolidate regulatory documents including standards related to zoning, subdivision and historic preservation, as well as streamline development review processes. 
Littleton Mayor Jerry Valdes said he hoped the ULUC will be a “living document” that will be open to change as the city itself changes and grows. 
The move brings new prospects for a wide palette of housing options, and staff members are considering making a mandatory percentage of affordable housing for future developments, aspects that garnered support from some in attendance of the meeting.
“While we have much work left to do in terms of housing, the progress that has been made is tremendous,” said Corey Reitz, executive director of South Metro Housing Options, during the meeting's public comment period. 
Eric Veith, who lives in southeast Littleton's council District 3 and chairs the city's housing task force, said the new code represented compromise for the community. 
“It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction for what we think is good housing policy for the city to meet the needs that have been identified,” he said. 
But others raised concerns.
Lynn Christensen, who also lives in District 3, said she is skeptical of the plan for mixed use along the city's corridors and cautioned the council against what she called “too much construction and over speculation.” 
“I believe developing high density urban centers to the extent the ULUC allows does not enhance neighborhood quality,” she said. 
Iftin Abshir, a resident of southwest Littleton's District 4 who previously ran for a council seat in 2019, said council should hold off on moving forward with the ULUC until it solidifies a plan for affordable housing. 
“It is entirely within the purview of council to adopt such an ordinance requiring a percentage of all new construction to be affordable and attainable housing and it is a further failure of council not to do so immediately,” she said. 
Following public comment and further discussion among council members, all seven members voted unanimously to adopt the ULUC, generating applause from themselves, city staff and some residents.


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