By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – A proposal aimed at creating affordable housing options in all neighborhoods of Denver would not apply to more than 20% of the city, officials with Denver Community Planning and Development, or CPD, confirm to CBS4 Investigates.

Any neighborhood with a Home Owners Association, or HOA, would not have to follow the proposed changes, and any neighborhood still under the city’s old zoning code would also be exempt.

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“When the city council adopted the Denver Zoning Code, they also stipulated at that time that the old code, now called Former Chapter 59, can’t be amended after June 25, 2010,” explained Andrew Webb, senior city planner. “Since 2010, our overarching policy has been to rezone properties out of Former Chapter 59 and into the new code, the Denver Zoning Code. We do that via incentives to property owners… we have also done CPD-led and Council-led rezoning efforts.”

The proposed group living changes have garnered impassioned opinions on both sides of the aisle.

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As the proposal currently stands, the changes would allow up to five unrelated adults to live together in a single family home, instead of only two, and an unlimited number of related adults would be allowed to live in the home, as well. The proposal would also allow halfway houses in any Denver neighborhood under the new zoning code.

Some people worry those changes will cause overcrowding and safety issues in residential neighborhoods. Other say it’s an important measure to create more equitable options in all areas of the city.

Despite CPD’s efforts to rezone various areas of the city, about 20% of the city remains under Former Chapter 59, meaning they would be exempt from the changes, including Mayor Michael Hancock’s neighborhood: Green Valley Ranch.

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Hancock was unavailable for an interview.

Some residents, who are already concerned about how the proposed changes will affect neighborhoods, feel that just isn’t fair.

“I think it goes back to the whole integrity and the flaws in the process,” said Paige Burkeholder, who says although she lives in an HOA neighborhood of Denver, she is still opposed to the group living proposal as it currently stands. “That should have been disclosed, that should have been addressed.”

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However, the CPD says it agrees that the new group living rules, if passed, should apply to all Denver neighborhoods. So, Webb says he and his team are in the early stages of deciding how to address that.

Webb says some options could be “rezoning either led by CPD or city council members, who do have the ability to do a legislative rezoning, and we also might look at what path might exist for actually amending former Chapter 59, to ensure that these updated regulations for residential uses apply back to properties that are still under the old code.”

Until then, Webb said it’s important the city move forward with amending rules that would apply for the other 80% of the city.

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“The intent is for the Denver Zoning Code to eventually apply citywide,” Webb said.

But City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer says she’s not ready to vote “yes” on the proposal until the Former Chapter 59 zoning issue is addressed.

“How is that equity? How is that going to be equitably applied in our city? It’s not, and that is disturbing, because the purpose of this law is to make sure that our zoning is applied equitably, across the city,” Sawyer said.

If the proposal were to pass before the Former Chapter 59 issues are addressed, Burkeholder believes more burden would be put on the neighborhoods that are under the new Denver Zoning Code.

“When you look at areas that are going to mostly impacted, it’s going to be this area of Montbello, where there’s the highest risk of special interests coming in, and changing the character and the integrity of the neighborhood,” Burkeholder said.

Many residents in the Montbello neighborhood, who say they have seen their neighborhood become more crowded, and more dangerous, over the years, hope city officials will not only take a closer look at the Former Chapter 59 issues, but also at the sheer number of people they are proposing could live together.

“We don’t have to sit and let you destroy the areas that we live in,” said Thrichosia Burdine. “This is not going to work.”

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City planners will be holding office hours on the proposal, to find out how to join in, click here.

Kati Weis