The ballot question:
Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended to clarify City Council’s authority regarding zone districts and to require that zoning protests can only be initiated by property owners in Denver?
What it does:
This ballot question seeks to clarify specific sections of the city’s charter where it deals with zoning regulations. Specifically, it addresses protest petitions for rezoning applications.
Protest petitions allow property owners to create a higher bar for the City Council to approve a rezoning application. If a protest petition is signed by enough property owners either within or adjacent to the boundaries of an area that is being considered for rezoning, that petition triggers a super-majority vote. That means 10 of the council’s 13 members must vote to approve the application to pass it instead of just a simple majority of seven or more yes votes.
Opponents to the Park Hill golf course rezoning turned in a protest petition with intentions to increase the threshold for that property’s rezoning earlier this year (a precursor to Referred Questions 2O being sent to voters). That petition was rejected after city officials ruled some of the people who signed on on behalf of commercial properties nearby did not have proper authorization to be signees. The rezoning eventually passed 9-4.
Under Referred Question 2N, the charter would be amended to clarify that protest petitions only apply to rezoning applications and not the creation of special taxing districts, business improvement districts or historic districts.
The measure would further clarify that only property owners from within Denver can sign protest petitions, not people living in other cities even if they are within 200 feet of a property within Denver’s borders.
What proponents are saying:
City Council members Robin Kniech and Amanda Sandoval sponsored this law change through the ballot referral process.
In a committee hearing covering, Kniech noted that a legal ruling a few years ago had opened the door to protest petitions being used for other types of council actions, not just rezonings. That was never the intent of the protest petition process, Kniech said.
Further, the charter as written has enough ambiguity that the city has been accepting signatures from property owners outside of Denver on some rezonings when those outside properties are close enough to the city’s borders.
This measure would close that loophole.
“This is a question of who has the right to petition and change legal standards inside of our city’s boundaries for this body’s (City Council’s) voting thresholds,” Kneich said.
Sandoval’s District 1 in northwest Denver shares a border with Lakewood and she said that Lakewood residents have signed protest petitions in the past.
Kneich told The Denver Post that the measure doesn’t silence people. Anyone is welcome to speak about a rezoning proposal at City Council hearings. But it is about protecting Denver’s power to make its own decisions.
“You don’t get to vote in somebody else’s elections,” she said.
What opponents are saying:
No one submitted comments against Referred Question 2N to the city to be included in the 2023 election’s ballot information booklet but the Denver Republican Party is recommending voters reject it.
“The ability for any citizen to protest a zoning change is a fundamental right in America,” Roger Rowland, the chairman of the Denver GOP, said.
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