Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Greenwood Village Zones Out the Middle Class

Well, in light of last night's election, I will lamentably post my recent piece of commentary published in The Villager about life in the Village.

When my family moved to Greenwood Village, we joked that “the Village zones against tornadoes.”
It seemed like every storm headed south or north of the Tech Center.

Zoning in GV is no small matter, as anyone who has remodeled knows, but it used to be about property, not people. Voters should scrutinize plans which zone against small businesses and middle-class earners, as the opposition to mixed-use development near the Landmark did.

While some residents seem to prefer high-rise offices or empty lots over small shops, restaurants and homes, others prefer pragmatic review of individual projects, rather than rigid rejection of any new buildings or residents.

To be clear, no City Council candidates or residents are actually “pro-density,” and it’s disingenuous to argue they are. No one seeks “high-density urbanization” that brings crime to neighborhoods, traffic to the streets and undesirables to our community and schools. Such exaggerated fear mongering should be viewed cautiously by voters.

In reality, we need rational discussion about community development. Greenwood Village is a city of 15,000 people with a small-town feel and ample parks amidst a thriving corporate sector in the Denver Tech Center. Yet, areas around I-25 have outdated property that could be updated to feature open spaces, restaurants, offices and housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and condos. In fact, that was the vision behind the Landmark, a mixed-use area quite popular with residents, despite those unsightly residential towers.

Last year at a local charity event, a councilmember told me, “I want single-family homes, not condos.” Perhaps unintentionally, he revealed an inclination to exclude people like me from his city. As an educator earning a middle-class income, I probably can’t afford a house in Greenwood Village, but I value living in the neighborhood where I teach, and I can afford my townhouse near school.
Middle-class Americans earn between $50-100,000 a year, making it tough to buy houses. By opposing any multi-family housing, some residents seem intent on excluding teachers, police officers, firefighters, healthcare workers and city employees from living in the very neighborhoods they serve.

The Village has rarely seen such controversy over our sense of community. There was no outcry over new houses on One Cherry Lane and no opposition to the subdivision built just west of Peoria. No candidates fought the new development just south of Belleview.

So, what has happened to our Village and what caused such harsh reactions to community development? Why have we seen such vitriolic comments about our public servants and our neighbors? Village residents should ask themselves, who are we as a community? Is Greenwood Village closed? Or can we reach a civil compromise that promotes responsible growth while preserving the Village?

If the free market prices consumers out of a neighborhood, that’s a natural effect of capitalism. But if government zones to ensure that exclusivity, well, that’s just sad.

Perhaps some residents would prefer to just build a wall around Greenwood Village