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Divide & Build Plan Heats Up

Montview Blvd. & Glencoe Street Property Rezone Request Highlights Potential For Area Of Instability

2.16.5315 E Montview.1  The owners of 5315 E. Montview, at the northeast corner of Montview Boulevard and Glencoe Street, have submitted a pre-application to the City of Denver Community Planning and Development to split their lot, requiring a Zone Map Amendment.

The existing home, built in 1915, and the lot, are in the U-SU-H zone district along Montview Boulevard. This translates to Urban-Single Unit (single family home) – 10,000 square foot minimum lot size. The existing lot is 125’ along Montview, by 150’ along Glencoe, equaling 18,750 square feet. The owners wish to take the two northern most 25’ sections of the existing lot, split them from the existing lot and create a new 50’ wide x 125’ long lot and build a home there, for sale and profit.

2.16.5315 E Montview 2Per the 2010 Denver Zoning Code, in order to split a lot without rezoning/map amendment within the U-SU-H zone district, a lot would need to be 20,000 square feet or greater. The proposed rezoning/map amendment involves moving the existing boundary between the U-SU-C district and U-SU-H district at the north property line and moving it to the south property line of the newly created lot. Also, any lot splitting or rezoning/map amendment would not be allowed to render an existing structure as non-compliant with zoning code regulations – i.e. required setbacks, height, lot coverage, etc.

2.16.5315 E Montview. 3The neighbors directly to the north of the proposed new lot/new home at 2028 Glencoe St. have presented their argument against the lot splitting/rezoning/map amendment. The neighbors purchased their home five years ago. At that time, they inquired as to whether the south adjacent lot could be split, and they were informed that it could not. This information helped to inform their decision to buy the home, knowing they would enjoy open space and daylight on the south side of their home.

Neighborhood association voted to oppose the project

At the Nov. 5 meeting of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. (GPHC), the new owners of 5315 E. Montview presented their plans, requesting that the registered neighborhood organization support their request for a lot split/rezoning/map amendment. Discussion and questions followed their presentation. During the board business portion of the meeting, a vote was taken. Of the 15 Board members present, 13 voted in opposition to the requested zoning changes, and two members abstained. Five days later, a letter of opposition was sent by GPHC to the Denver City Council and Community Planning and Development (CPD).

In early December, the city planning department requested Greater Park Hill Community and the owners at 2028 Glencoe, who were in opposition to the plan, participate in mediation with city planners and the new owners of 5315 E. Montview Blvd.

House faces Montview, not Glencoe

Previous experience by GPHC in mediation has been that concessions by the property owner desiring the rezoning are made and considered. This mediation, held on Jan. 14, did not discuss concessions, but was more of an informational discussion on the zoning regulations regarding the subject property and the concerns of the parties opposed to the rezoning request.

Curt Upton, the city planner assigned to the case, demonstrated that the zoning code Article 13 Means of Measurement and Definitions determines that in the situation of an oblong block, such as Montview to 22nd Avenue, Glencoe to Grape Streets, that the longest side of the block determines the primary street.

With the distance of Glencoe on this block being longer than Montview, Glencoe is determined to be the primary street – even though the front door and porch of this particular house faces Montview, not  Glencoe. Its address places it on Montview, not Glencoe.

Determining the primary street is the key in establishing the required setbacks for each side of a zone lot. Upton explained that the front door or address of a property does not determine the primary street for zoning. However, in this case, the majority of homes and properties along Montview Boulevard are oriented to Montview Boulevard and Montview Boulevard is designated as an historic parkway, with its own setback requirements separate from the Denver Zoning Code.

What street change would mean

If Montview were determined to be the primary street, the rear setback (backyard) from the existing residence to the new lot line would be 20 feet. Currently, there is 63 feet +/- from the back wall of the existing home to the existing lot line between 5315 E. Montview and 2028 Glencoe. A new deck on the northwest corner of the existing home has been built, which projects beyond the north and west walls of the existing home. If Montview were to be considered the primary street, then the existing home would be within the required rear setback.

Additionally, in the rear 35 percent of a zone lot, a home is only allowed to be one story/17 feet maximum height. Relative to Montview, the existing home is in the rear 35 percent of the new lot configuration and the entire footprint is two stories and above 17 feet height.

If Glencoe is determined to be the primary street for this house, then the north side interior setback between the new lot line and the existing home is 10 feet. The new deck would need to be modified as it currently projects into that setback. If the rezoning/map amendment is granted and a new home is built on the new lot, the north and south side setbacks of this property are 5 feet.

Potentially, a 6-foot tall fence would be along the southern lot line, 5 feet away from the new home and 10 feet away from the existing home and the north facing deck. The existing home, deck and backyard are now oriented to the side of the proposed new home. This new two-story home would also shadow the south side of the home at 2028 Glencoe. Built in 1928, the Glencoe house features sunroom type glazing on the southernmost exterior wall with a second story deck above.

What is on the ground

Previous to the 2010 Denver Zoning Code, zoning for single-family home districts was a “one size fits all” approach, with a single minimum lot size for the entire City and County of Denver. The new zoning code established new zone districts for residential, as well as commercial.

The new residential districts focused on context as well as average lot size. Hence, the majority of Park Hill is zoned as Urban and Single Unit. The third suffix of the zone district acronyms differentiating between average lot sizes. The concept of the minimum required lot size being relative to the average of a zone district was a tool implemented to curb lot splitting.

During the draft of the 2010 code, representatives from Greater Park Hill Community attended numerous meetings and workshops with the planning department and five members of City Council. We reviewed the draft of the code, plus the proposed zoning maps. We checked the zoning map, block-by-block, lot-by-lot, to make sure that the city planning department was correctly representing “what was on the ground” – as that was their intention.

Neighborhood association officials, as well as representatives from the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation of registered neighborhood groups across Denver, requested revisions and additions to the draft and maps. After an exhaustive process for all parties, City Council adopted the 2010 Denver Zoning Code. It did not represent everything the neighborhoods had requested, but, it was finally finished, with the understanding that text amendments would occur as it was discovered that content required editing.

Protecting our Neighborhoods

Moving forward, we expected to rely on the code to protect our neighborhoods, especially Park Hill, which is determined to be an Area of Stability. However, rezonings and map amendments are occurring all over Denver, despite well-organized opposition from neighborhoods (i.e. the recently-approved zone change to allow high-density apartment complex in the Crestmoor Park neighborhood south of Park Hill).

Rather than a heavy tome, to many neighborhood activists, it feels as though the six-year-old Zoning Code is being treated as liquid by developers and by city officials – easily manipulated and wordsmithed to comply with the requirements for allowing a rezoning.

At this point, with the property at 5313 E. Montview, the next steps are for the city planning department to respond to the concerns of setting a precedent for rezoning and lot splitting along Montview Boulevard and elsewhere in our neighborhood and to define what an ‘Area of Stability’ really means.

Meanwhile, the existing home on Montview has been gutted with some floor plan changes, new electrical, drywall and finishes throughout and the exterior windows recently received a fresh coat of paint. It remains to be seen as to whether the present owners will move in or 5315 E. Montview will be put on the market.

To be continued….

Bernadette Kelly is the Planning & Zoning Chair for Greater Park Hill Community, Inc.

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