City Hall (File photo)

A miniature furor erupted among the urban planning wonks in the city last week after the mayor put forth a suggestion to revisit a small portion of the Zoning Ordinance.

City Council agreed unanimously, among the five members present, to discuss development standards in an area on Colorado Avenue and the south side of Broadway east of 20th Street later this month.

Mayor Kevin McKeown, who placed the item on council’s agenda last week, compared it to a “phenomenal political Rorschach” test.

Council will decide whether to allow Tier 3 development, which is denser and taller, in the area.

“This item on the agenda has gotten every conceivable response from my being told that I was increasing development and increasing Tier 3, to being told that I was somehow decreasing housing in the community,” McKeown said, “and frankly this motion does neither.”

McKeown said he spent a day last month recovering from oral surgery and watching the footage of council’s marathon discussion of the Zoning Ordinance, which will dictate land uses throughout the city for years to come. Council preliminarily approved the ordinance last month and is expected to officially adopt it later this month.

In rewatching the meeting, McKeown said, he felt that council made contradictory motions related to the area. In one instance they asked for less dense and high development standards for large swaths along the boulevards except in the three areas, including the one in question. In another instance they voted to remove an activity center — which allows taller and denser development near transit hubs — in an area that included the one in question.

“When I saw the two of these juxtaposed, I realized that what we had done was, on the one hand decided that we did not want a lot of commercial development adjacent to the future Saint John’s (hospital) Phase 2 (construction project), which is 750,000 square feet of medical office between that and the Colorado Center,” he said, “and another point we had decided to remove the activity center but not the Tier 3. My job was to figure out how to harmonize these two and that was why I put it on the agenda.”

Councilmember Ted Winterer suggested that perhaps council could consider allowing Tier 3 residential development while blocking Tier 3 commercial development in the area.

Council members briefly began asking more specific questions but were reminded by city attorneys that they couldn’t do that until the item comes back, likely later this month.

Any changes that council decides to make could results in changes or later amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, which is hundreds of pages long and was debated over the course of dozens of meetings by the Planning Commission, or another planning document, the Land Use and Circulation Element.

Councilmembers Terry O’Day and Pam O’Connor, who often favored taller and denser development standards than their colleagues, were absent for the vote, which took place on Thursday.

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