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How is the sidewalk in your neighborhood? Denver wants your feedback on proposed sidewalk fees

Voter approved sidewalk fees will finally take effect this summer in Denver. Expect a bill sometime in July
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Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-19 23:41:43-05

DENVER — The City of Denver is getting closer to setting a new fee structure for sidewalk improvements.

Denver voters approved a plan in November 2022 to improve sidewalks in the Mile High City. Despite that voter-approved ordinance, the Denver City Council voted to delay its implementation, citing an unfair fee structure that a committee has been studying for months now.

“We spent many months studying the different options and thinking about what are the different ways that people define fairness because there’s multiple ways to think about that,” said Jill Locantore, executive director of the Denver Streets Partnership. “The fee varied widely depending on the characteristics of the property. So basically, the committee is proposing to even that out.”

The original ordinance would have required homeowners to pay an annual fee based on the linear footage of the sidewalk in front of their homes. Those living on corner lots, including Margaret Atencio, fear that might really pinch their monthly budgets.

“It’s going to hurt people badly,” Atencio said. “For my corner lot, it would be $359 a year. And I just have Social Security, so that means I’ll have to cut back on groceries or bills or something else.”

In Nikole Strickler’s City Park West neighborhood, the uneven and crumbling sidewalks could definitely use some improvements.

“I’ve tripped and fallen twice,” Strickler said of an uneven area of the sidewalk near a tree in front of the business next door to her home.

She shared a video from last summer of the street and sidewalk flooding, a regular occurrence she said has only exacerbated the problem.

“It’s obviously gotten worse,” Strickler said. “They’re treacherous. I mean, I see people fall all the time.”

The original fee structure proposed in the initiative would have varied widely depending on the characteristics of any given property. Locantore said the new fee structure would be a flat rate for everyone.

Single-family homeowners would pay about $150 a year, while those living in multi-unit buildings and condos would pay about $30 to $40 a year.

“It’s impossible to come up with a fee structure that is perfectly aligned with everybody’s definition of fairness,” Locantore said. “But we really listened to what people’s concerns were and I think we came up with a good compromise that addresses a lot of those concerns.”

Denver residents still have one week to offer their input on the new fee structure through a citywide survey.

“Our expenses every year just seem to keep adding up, and there’s a lot of people who are now living in really unaffordable situations,” Strickler said. “I think it’s a great idea, in theory. I think they need to distribute the cost equally and fairly.”

Locantore said the proposed fee structure would also include a 20% discount for homeowners based on annual household income, no matter what neighborhood they live in. In those instances, homeowners would be required to fill out an application for the discount.

“There are people who live throughout the city that might benefit from an income-qualified discount,” Locantore said. “Denver’s sidewalks today are woefully inadequate.”

Some estimates suggest roughly 40% of Denver neighborhoods have no sidewalk or have a sidewalk that’s too skinny for a person in a wheelchair.

“People would like their kids to be able to walk to school. They’d like to walk to their local coffee shop. But they don’t feel safe doing so because there’s not an adequate sidewalk,” Locantore said.

Neighbors in City Park West just want to make the cost more equitable.

“Sidewalks are expensive to fix,” Strickler said. “We did some cement work in our backyard, and it was astronomical. So I think it’s time to prioritize sidewalks and share the cost.”

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