Thoughts from Your Councilman
By District 6 City Councilman, Paul Kashmann
Happy Springtime –
While Denver residents are anxiously awaiting (on April 15) a spring storm that is predicted to dump somewhere from 5 inches to 3 feet of snow on the city, District 6 is getting greener by the day. Spring garden chores and renewed workout regimens are bringing neighbors out of hibernation and back into the community.
City infrastructure is getting a lot of attention from City Council. Right now the construction and maintenance of sidewalks is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner – YOU! Even small-scale repairs can run into the high hundreds of dollars with larger jobs well into the thousands. As Chairman of the City Council Sidewalks Working Group, I am joining my colleagues in an effort to develop a system that results in a better maintained, more complete sidewalk system that will enhance mobility while lessening the financial impact on residents.
Unlike some U.S. cities, Denver has a very incomplete storm water drainage system. City staff has estimated the cost to build out an efficient drainage and flood control system for Denver communities in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. In addition to studies just beginning to look at possible improvements to Harvard Gulch, Weir Gulch and the South Platte River, the controversial Platte to Park Hill project – estimated at some $300 million – is moving forward to address flooding in the Park Hill and Montclair Basins. The Montclair Basin is Denver’s largest drainage basin with no gulch or other channel to control storm water. The project is slated to: sculpt a large section of City Park Golf Course to accommodate a detention pond to slow flood waters in major storms; and build an open channel along 39th Avenue through the Cole neighborhood to gather and carry storm flows to the South Platte River. There has been vigorous debate as to whether the prime goal of this project is to provide flood relief for neighborhoods, or to facilitate the reconstruction of I-70 from Brighton Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard (and eventually to Tower Road) It does appear to me that the project will provide flood relief for the proposed I-70 rebuild and other north Denver construction efforts well before it gives similar relief to neighborhoods in the more distant reaches of the basins. While CDOT is planning its own drainage system to control water in the reconstruction area, current plans call for that system to tie into the Platte to Park Hill system as it drains into the river.
The District 6 office continues to be in ongoing discussion with the traffic engineering staff at Denver Public Works to bring safer street crosswalks and increased bike trails to our neighborhoods. There are locations throughout the District that demand increased safe crossings and added traffic enforcement. We are working with District 3 Police to provide speed control signage to continue addressing these concerns.
City Council is nearing agreement on a new proposal for how we will license marijuana businesses in the future. It seems to be the opinion of a majority of Council that we have arrived at, or are very near, a condition in which our retail landscape is more than adequately served by the amount of marijuana outlets as well as the product they are bringing to market. We are looking at proposals that will cap the number of locations that we allow in our city, and protect neighborhoods from additional, unwanted intrusion. One of the sticking points centers on whether we allow several dozen pending licenses to proceed toward issuance. The argument in favor is that these are business people who have followed the instructions they were given to earn their license – some spending in the millions of dollars – and it is unfair to stop the process in mid-stream. The argument against allowing these new licenses is that many of them are for properties in areas that already have more than their share of marijuana businesses. I feel it is essential that we show good faith and allow these licenses to proceed, but we continue to look for ways to facilitate a reduction of the impact on areas with undue concentration.
City Council is also considering an ordinance legalizing rentals of residential properties for periods of less than 30 days – short term rentals – as an accessory use in all residential zones of the city. Current Denver law forbids rentals of terms less than 30 days, unless licensed as a hotel, bed and breakfast, etc. There are at least 1,500 property owners, listing with companies like Air BnB, VRBO, HomeAway, etc., that have been violating this law through online and print ads. Denver is not currently equipped to enforce our existing law. Cities around the country have been experimenting with licensing short-term rentals as a way to control the industry and collect lodging taxes to set a fair playing field with the legal short-term lodging industry. The sticking point here is whether or not we allow a homeowner to rent an investment property on a short-term basis, or insist that the only property that may be rented is the homeowner’s residence of “customary return.”
If you have particular concerns about issues in your community, please give my office a call at 720-337-6666, or call my cell phone at 720-260-0638. I also continue my weekly office hours on Thursday mornings, 8 to 10a.m., at Pete’s University Park Café, at Evans Avenue and University Boulevard. Drop by, or call us in advance to reserve a time. Have a great start to Spring!