Denvers zoning variance process is 100 years old, this measure would update it

The ballot question:

Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended concerning zoning to remove existing Charter language regarding the Board of Adjustment and require that the procedures for appeals, variances, and exceptions from the zoning code be addressed in city ordinance instead of in the charter?

What it does:

This measure would erase a big chunk of the city charter that establishes the Board of Adjustment and Zoning and its authority to hear and make decisions around zoning variances requested by Denver residents and builders.

It replaces that with a much shorter section that empower the City Council to provide a process and criteria for filing appeals and granting variances and exceptions to the city’s zoning code.


What proponents are saying:

This is one of two “good governance” measures that the City Council referred to the April 4 ballot along with another proposed change to the way zoning challenges are handled, Referred Question 2N.

Councilmembers Robin Kniech and Amanda Sandoval sponsored the effort to refer the question to the ballot. The existing structure relying on the Board of Adjustment was created 100 years ago before the city had a uniform zoning code, the two explained.

It is inflexible and works against the interests of residents seeking variances that, among other things would allow them to preserve buildings, save mature trees and do other things that are not outlined in the variance criteria today, Kniech said.

Council does not plan to do away with the Board of Adjustment.  After updating rules around how that body is appointed and operates last year, this charter amendment would clear the way to allow for basic variances to be approved quickly through an administrative process while larger variances would still be heard by the board, Kniech said.

Simplifying the charter language also allows the city to be more nimble and keep up with its own adopted plans and best practices. The council would have the power to update rules via ordinance instead of having to come back to voters for a charter amendment any time a change may be needed.

People should have the right to appeal things. They should have the right to get variances,” Kniech said. “The details and standards for those should be in (city) ordinance,” not the charter.

What opponents are saying:

No one submitted comments to the city in opposition to this measure in time to be included in the ballot information booklet. The Denver Post has not found any group publicly speaking out against it. Denver Republican Party opposes Referred Question 2N but has taken no position on Referred Question 2M.

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