Editor's note: After this story was written, the Englewood City Council scheduled a second round of the first reading of CodeNext, to take place on Sept. 18. The staff report with the ordinance notes that due to "inadvertent errors" in the process of amending and adopting the ordinance on Sept. 11, the do-over is needed to avoid conflicting with the city charter. Final approval is expected on Sept. 25.
In a meeting that pushed past midnight into the wee hours of Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Englewood City Council voted 4-3 to approve the density-increasing CodeNext zoning overhaul on first reading, with recall targets Joe Anderson, Chelsea Nunnenkamp and Othoniel Sierra joining forces with interim appointee PJ Kolnik for the win.
The second reading, and likely final approval, of CodeNext is set for Sept. 25, just eight days before a recall election that could remove density supporters Anderson, Nunnenkamp and Sierra from office, and just six weeks before the regular November election in which five of the seven council seats are on the ballot.
Four-to-three votes were the theme of the night on Monday and into Tuesday as the council was typically divided along the same lines on multiple amendments to CodeNext proposed by councilmembers, with the Anderson / Kolnik / Nunnenkamp / Sierra bloc pushing for looser limits on density while members Rita Russell, Steven Ward and Jim Woodward and their more cautious approach were consistently on the losing side.
Among the amendments that councilmembers proposed making to the CodeNext draft that had come from the Planning & Zoning Commission, few were approved, but those that were approved included the removal of the 10-year owner-occupancy requirement for accessory dwelling units and changing the definition of a household from four unrelated adults to four adults of any relationship plus their minor children or legal dependents.
“Going into this I knew this was going to be difficult to achieve consensus to satisfy all of our citizens, so I believe that we did take a balanced approach to meet those needs,” Mayor Othoniel Sierra said.
The council also decided to keep the lack of off-street parking requirement for Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, as well as the threshold for property owner consent to form a local historic district to 65 percent of owners.
“We are far too dense this going to make use incredibly more dense. I think the citizens have spoken, "At-Large Councilmember Rita Russell said.
Prior to the vote, council members asked questions about items either left in or out of the new code.
At-Large Councilmember Jim Woodward questioned the lack of a parking requirement for ADUs and the 10-year sunset law for owner occupancy.
Most council members asked questions and discussed ordinances pertaining to ADUs.
“This has been deeply challenging. I think much harder than any of us anticipated but so incredibly important for our community,” District 2 Councilmember Chelsea Nunnenkamp said. “I think what we have in this final draft is a code that will not meet everyone’s needs and will not make everyone happy but will address a broad range of citizens.”
Residents have mostly commented on changes, specifically owner occupancy and the lack of an off-street parking requirement for ADUs, which the council discussed at length in the Sept. 11 meeting.
“When it comes to owner occupancy when I think about affordable and attainable, I look at this purely from the supply and demand,” Interim At-Large Councilmember PJ Kolnik said. “The more housing opportunities there are at all different types of levels within our neighbors the more people are going to be able to access them.”
He said an owner occupancy implies only homeowners can build and live in ADUs and feels removing it would change how the city is built.
Russell said the owner occupancy requirement should remain in the code.
“I think a lot of people have spoken to this. Their concern is that CodeNext is written to favor developers and the people that will come in and develop Englewood,” Russel said. “That is true.”
She said it will be “worse than they can imagine” and the “more they try to make affordable it’s not affordable.”
“It’s impossible to build affordable housing during a high inflationary period,” Russel said.
Additionally, the council was divided on the issue of off-street parking for ADUs as some felt it would increase traffic congestion and others said it would make for more affordable housing.
“I think it’s a question of priorities. My priority is to ensure quality of life for the residents who live here now,” District 4 Councilmember Steve Ward said. “If we’re doing something that potentially has a significantly decremental effect to the people who live here now like keeping them from parking on their street I am not willing to do that.”
He said he wants to create affordable housing for future residents, but he won’t support the lack of parking requirements at the expense of current residents.
Sierra remained more in the middle of each discussion regarding ADU parking and owner occupancy.
He recommended changing the owner's occupancy from 10 years to five and maybe requiring some parking but not for each ADU. Ultimately, the council removed the owner occupancy requirement and maintained that off street parking for ADUs would not be required.
Many residents have expressed opposition for CodeNext as they claim it will increase density, allow absentee ownership and negatively impact homeowners' rights and properties.
Those in support of CodeNext feel it will benefit the future of Englewood by providing affordable housing, addressing the needs of the diverse family structures within the city and boosting the city’s economy.
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