Neighborhood Compatibility Regulations Considered by City Council

The City Council is continuing its push to consider the means by which to regulate neighborhood compatibility in the older neighborhoods on both sides of College Avenue. The problem, according to some, is that scrape-offs or pop-ups are negatively impacting neighborhood character because they are out of scale with the surrounding houses.

At a recent study session the staff proposed to restrict home size in these neighborhoods, arguing size is the primary element that defines character. However, the Council didn’t appear to have consensus on the issue at all.

David Roy argued that historic preservation should be the guiding principle, but his colleagues did not share his opinion. Kelly Ohlson castigated his fellow Council members, saying they obviously hadn’t read their packets or they would agree with his position, which was to keep the regulations simple to regulate the five percent of homeowners, whose new or renovated homes don’t fit the neighborhood. Ben Manvel was more concerned with regulating how much a property could shade another home, reducing its ability to generate solar power. Wade Troxell and Aislinn Kottwitz were clearly uncomfortable with legislating “taste” while Mayor Doug Hutchinson wondered how big the problem really is and worried about creating simple regulations without unintended consequences. The Council’s goal is to have an ordinance ready for public review beginning December 7.

Note: This discussion should seem familiar because the City of Boulder has adopted legislation with the same intent. Boulder’s ordinance was referred to several times during the study session, illustrating that public policy is regional in the sense that legislation in one of our area’s jurisdictions can lead to similar ideas in others. Creating “HOA” type legislation to regulate what “looks good” is bad enough, but neighborhood compatibility regulations can also impact affected properties’ resale value.

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