Residents leery of density, like 'small-town feel'

City should focus on putting 'community first,' controlled growth, forum attendees say

Posted 3/12/18

The “density agenda” is high on some Englewood residents' list of problems in their city — they prefer “smart, controlled” growth. At a community meeting with Englewood city councilmembers …

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Residents leery of density, like 'small-town feel'

City should focus on putting 'community first,' controlled growth, forum attendees say

Posted

The “density agenda” is high on some Englewood residents' list of problems in their city — they prefer “smart, controlled” growth.

At a community meeting with Englewood city councilmembers and city staff, 12 residents gathered March 7 to give the city that input and other comments on what it should change, what should stay the same and what themes are most important to its identity. The input will inform the council as it creates its strategic plan, a set of priorities and goals that help guide the council in making decisions — it can be the common thread between residents, councilmembers and city staff to make sure everyone is “swimming in the same direction,” according to the city.

In voicing a preference for smart growth — a phrase ubiquitous and often vague in metro Denver politics — some residents gave some specifics on the opinion.

Affordable housing is a beneficial goal for the city to aim for, said Maureen White, 69, and the lack of affordability in the Englewood market is an issue, other residents told the city. The meeting at Colorado's Finest High School of Choice saw residents work in small groups and all together to give input on several issues, and density and economic development weighed in as frequent topics.

The city isn't managing growth well, according to some residents in the group.

John Brick, a former planning and zoning commissioner who attended, said “the density agenda” is a race to the bottom.

“You don't import poverty,” Brick said. “It just doesn't work.”

An example of smarter growth, said Kathy Christie, would be the city better regulating renovations like “popping the top” — when someone remakes a one-story house into a house with more floors, which Christie said can bring down the property value of neighbors' homes.

For Joyce Condon, 72, the city has a lack of adequate planning and zoning. Brick echoed that concern, saying that planned-unit developments, or PUDs — whereby the city reclassifies what can be built on a small area, rather than rezoning a larger swath of the city — aren't a policy the city should use.

Building apartments and multi-family housing units near single-family homes amounts to the “degradation of residential areas,” said Cynthia Searfoss, 57. Other residents said the loss of a neighborly feeling is an issue, and unifying neighborhoods should be a goal.

Residents had positives for the city, too — Brick said he's always seen Englewood as the place to go for people who want to raise a family. The “outstanding” parks and recreation facilities that can appeal to youth and seniors are a draw for Condon.

The location of the city, and the quality of its parks, appeal to Brick and Glenn Searfoss, 58. Despite Englewood's proximity to Denver, it still has a smaller-town atmosphere, Condon said, which she finds charming.

“I think we must be adaptable,” Condon said, “but not too extreme” in terms of adjusting to growth.

Englewood's makeup as a mixed group that spans generations is a strength, White said.

“Change isn't always bad,” White added.

Other concerns included criticism of Englewood's code-enforcement efforts and a sense that city staff can be unresponsive, according to Brick.

“Englewood has rules, but they're not being enforced,” White said about code enforcement. She found it problematic that code enforcement isn't more proactive in identifying violations and said relying on residents to report problems forces them to make their name public in reports, which some don't want to do.

Englewood's open storefronts downtown and farther down on South Broadway came up as an issue and an opportunity.

“We don't have enough small business, and there are an awful lot of open storefronts,” Glenn Searfoss said.

Councilmember Dave Cuesta said making sure the city's sales-tax intake is keeping up with its financial needs should be a priority. Englewood would benefit from having a big attraction, Cynthia Searfoss said.

“We're like a pass-through city,” Cynthia Searfoss said. “An inner-city transit hub.”

Englewood doesn't seem to be enjoying the business benefits of additional traffic that comes with added population in the Denver metro area, due to Englewood's lack of an attraction to pull people here, Cynthia Searfoss said.

Condon echoed that, adding that if the city can build on the upcoming indoor-climbing facility at the old Sports Authority headquarters, that could attract people including millennials.

Residents voiced support for more events like the Englewood Block Party — held for the first-ever time in October in the historic 3400 block of South Broadway — and National Night Out.

Some residents also voiced their feeling that “council is stuck” and concern with what they called divisiveness on city council. Upcoming fiscal obstacles related to infrastructure projects Englewood is in increasing need of also came up.

But the positive spirit in the meeting was perhaps summed up best by two themes residents suggested for the city to follow: “Community first” and “Taking care of each other.”

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