Thirteen months after being passed by voters, Lakewood’s Strategic Growth Initiative, which limits new home construction to 1% of Lakewood’s current housing supply and requires Lakewood City …
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Thirteen months after being passed by voters, Lakewood’s Strategic Growth Initiative, which limits new home construction to 1% of Lakewood’s current housing supply and requires Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve residential projects with 40 units or more, received its first blighted property test.
Lakewood City Council voted 6-5 at a virtual Aug. 10 council meeting in favor of designating property at 1347 Lamar St. as being blighted — paving the way for the property’s owner, Lamar Street Associates, to build 20 to 25 townhomes at the property. Under the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, also known as 200, properties that are deemed blighted don’t have to go through an allocation process. The 200 rules require developers to receive allocations for a building permit.
Lakewood considers properties in urban renewal areas to be blighted. Urban renewal laws give municipal governments the opportunity to create urban renewal projects as a way to improve specifically designated blighted areas. Blighted conditions under urban renewal laws include deteriorating structures and deteriorating site improvements, faulty streets or lot layouts, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, inadequate public facilities, code violations and other factors.
Property owners outside of urban renewal areas are allowed to conduct an independent study to determine if their property is blighted. Following a study, property owners can ask Lakewood City Council for a blight designation under 200 provisions.
The property at 1347 Lamar St. is 500 feet away from the existing West Colfax Avenue Corridor Reinvestment Area, or urban renewal area, which runs from Sheridan Boulevard to Simms Street.
City documents describe the property at 1347 Lamar St. as a vacant lot with unsightly vegetation, unkempt trees, weeds and an unvegetated packed-earth area used for overflow parking and vehicle turnaround. The property is near the Lamar Station stop along the W Line light rail and the 40 West ArtLine, a four-mile walking and biking cultural asset.
According to a study of the property conducted by Matrix Design Group, an engineering consultant, the property at 1347 Lamar St. has six conditions that designate it to be blighted. The study found that the property has a faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility or usefulness, has unsanitary or unsafe conditions, a defective or inadequate street layout and other blight conditions.
“It’s a challenging area as far as crime and graffiti. And while it’s sitting empty, that doesn’t mean it’s not a blighted piece of land,” said Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul, who voted in favor of deeming the property blighted.
“It’s bringing new investment and creating new sidewalks that will help the light rail. (The townhomes) will activate an area that could use some activity, investment and activation,” Paul said.
Other members of Lakewood City Council like Councilmember Mike Bieda expressed concerns about the blight designation. He said typically, blighted properties are areas where something has already been developed rather than the vacant land.
Bieda said he felt like Lamar Street Associates’ blight designation was a blatant attempt to avoid the requirements of 200.
“There are two requirements under the strategic growth initiative. One is if you’re going to develop this property, you have to get an allocation for the number of units you’re going to build, and number two is if you’re going to build something over 40 units, you have to get the approval of council,” said Bieda.
“I am disappointed (Lakewood City Council’s Aug. 10 vote) turned out the way it did. We’re going to get more of these, and I think council needs to be alert to others trying to take advantage of the blight exception,” Bieda added. He said he hopes the project turns out nice and that the neighborhood needs it.
Paul and Councilmembers Dana Gutwein, Jacob LaBure, Sharon Vincent, David Skilling and Karen Harrison voted in favor of the blight designation. Councilmembers Bieda, Charley Able, Ramey Johnson, Anita Springsteen and Barb Franks voted against it.
“One of the main goals in 200 is to redevelop blighted areas. In talking to voters, I heard some voters say time and time again that they want to see Colfax redeveloped,” said Gutwein. “We’re going to be looking at properties on a case by case basis. This one met all the criteria and is in a clearly blighted area. It meets 200, it’s a very positive investment for that area and finally, investment is even more important for our businesses but also our future homebuyers.”
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