Height, density limits stand ground in Wheat Ridge

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Wheat Ridge voters will not be considering another ballot question having to do with height and density issues this fall.

City Council members decided June 3 against moving forward with an effort to amend the city’s charter to allow for the removal of height and density restrictions for commercial and residential properties in town.

The city’s charter contains restrictions on maximum building heights and densities, and the charter can only be amended by voters.

City charter restricts properties in residential-zoned districts to 21 units per acre, and limits building heights in those districts to three stories. Commercial properties can go no higher than five stories.

The issue is something that Wheat Ridge voters have become very familiar with over the years. In 1983, voters approved an amendment to the charter to put in place height and density restrictions, out of concern of that too many high-density properties would be built in the city.

In 2008, voters rejected lifting those restrictions.

The next year voters approved ballot measures 2A and 2B, which allows for the removal of height and density restrictions in urban renewal areas, such as the 44th and Wadsworth corridor and Interstate 70 and Kipling areas.

But, during a June 3 study session, the council decided it would be best to not bring the issue to the voters this time around.

“We went to the voters in 2008, and they resoundingly said no,” Mayor Jerry DiTullio said after the meeting. “Our development in the city has to be smart.”

DiTullio was a supporter of 2A and 2B, but he is opposed to making any more changes to the city’s charter on this issue. He expressed concern that lifting height and density restrictions would allow for an influx of high-occupancy residential rental properties popping up, which he says the city cannot handle.

“We’re already 99 percent built out,” he said. “If the city had more green fields available, that would be another thing.”

Supporters of a charter amendment argue that the charter restrictions hinder more positive development opportunities in the city.

Britta Fisher, executive director of Wheat Ridge 2020, a nonprofit economic development organization, said she is disappointed that voters won’t be able to consider the issue again this year. Fisher doesn’t think that managing zoning issues through the charter is a good idea and that lifting height and density restrictions from the charter is “a no-cost way of inviting development in Wheat Ridge.”

“We continue to think it’s bad public policy,” she said. “But, if this is not the year, it’s not the year.”