Denver mayor on proposed Colorado land use bill: A ‘precedent we shouldn’t allow to happen’

Mayor Michael Hancock argues the "top-down" approach to housing won't work. An amended version of SB-213 passed through senate committee Tuesday night.
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Posted at 11:16 AM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 17:13:27-04

DENVER – The proposed land use bill that has the backing of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis “will not work” and would “set precedents we should never allow to happen,” according to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

He made the comment in an appearance on Denver7 News on Local3 Thursday morning. The outgoing mayor had previously joined a list of Colorado city leaders expressing opposition to the bill since it was introduced.

The bill, SB-213, aims to address the affordable housing issue by significantly impacting zoning and land use laws statewide.

It passed a senate committee hearing by a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, but with significant changes.

As it was first introduced, the bill would have allowed for so-called “middle housing” – up to six-unit complexes – to be built on any single-family lot in Colorado. The bill that passed the Senate’s Local Government and Housing committee Tuesday, though, cuts back on upzoning areas by about 70%, limiting the concept to areas near “key corridors” including public transit stations and other urban areas. Bill sponsors also reduced the size of potential middle housing developments from six units to four.

Hancock, among other opponents of the bill, have taken issue with the “top-down” approach that takes control away from local governments.

“Regarding our zoning legislation, what is good for Denver is not necessarily [...] what's good for Yuma County. The top-down process just contextually doesn't work,” Hancock told Denver7’s Brian Sanders. “We should never put at risk our local control authority, and the state pre-empting that is a real challenge for municipalities. And, quite frankly, sets of precedents that we should never be in a place to allow to happen.”

Denver mayor Hancock on proposed land use bill: 'Top-down theory will not work'

While he said the bill has “flaws,” Hancock expressed support for the intention of the bill – addressing an affordable housing crisis in Colorado.

“I think what the governor is attempting to do is laudable,” he said. “We need to address affordable housing, we need to address it on the state level, but we simply got to make sure we're not doing it by preempting local control. As well as a top-down approach, it should be a collaborative approach.”

The Colorado Municipal League, which includes 270 cities and towns in Colorado, has publicly opposed the bill.

Sen. Dominic Moreno, one of SB-213’s prime sponsors, addressed the issue of local control in an interview with Denver7 on Wednesday.

“The local governments have been clear. As long as, what they call preemption is part of the bill, they're going to oppose it. And I understand that perspective,” Moreno said. “The reality is, though, that there is place for state involvement in this area.

“We're obviously working with them to figure out what other approaches alternatives could look like, and we have really valued their feedback. [...] We're working to figure out specifically how we can address their concerns, but still, again, maintain some of the statewide solution approach that is so important in this space.”