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Denver election 2021: Voters asked to double down on city’s camping ban

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Denver election 2021: Voters asked to double down on city’s camping ban

Denver’s practice of clearing encampments of unhoused people has been the subject of lawsuits, protests and a failed 2019 ballot measure seeking to repeal the city’s camping ban. 

Initiated Ordinance 303 on the Nov. 2 ballot would build on the camping ban, opening the city to more lawsuits if it doesn’t enforce the ban under a strict timeline.  

If passed, the ordinance, brought forth by Denver Republican Party chair Garrett Flicker, would do the following:  

  • mandate that you must have written permission for camping on private property;
  • set a three-day deadline for the city to take action against campsites after receiving a complaint; 
  • allow people to sue the city if it doesn’t meet the three-day rule; 
  • cap the number of city-sanctioned campsites at four, requiring running water, restrooms and lighting at each.

“I love Denver and think it can be a great city again, but we must compassionately and fairly address the serious, and virtually out of control, homeless problem in our city,” Flicker said in an email to The Denver Post. “Our measure is simple, common-sense, compassionate and fair.”

City officials don’t see it that way. Neither do advocates for people experiencing homelessness. Both the City Council and Mayor Michael Hancock are opposed to 303. 

The council passed a proclamation last week, calling out the dark money behind the signature-gathering effort and warning voters that the lawsuit provision could put taxpayers on the hook for painful payouts. As highlighted in a Westword story in June, Defend Colorado, a group that doesn’t disclose its donors, gave the 303 committee $80,000 in May. The group donated another $37,500 in June, campaign finance records show.

“A lot of things about encampments are illegal today. Camps are being cleaned up every day in Denver. That’s not what this initiative is about,” Councilwoman Robin Kniech said at the Oct. 4 council meeting. “It’s about massive taxpayer liability.” 

Hancock said the measure seems to have been crafted without an understanding of the legal framework the city has to operate under when addressing camps. A federal judge has ordered the city to provide seven days’ notice before clearing an encampment, something that would override a shorter timeline that 303 would establish. 

Flicker called that argument disingenuous because he believes delivering a warning would count as enforcement. 

He also defended the provision that would cap the number of sanctioned camping sites at four. The city already has two, and Hancock said he hears from groups across the city that are interested in setting up others. 

“The city has shown that it is having a huge challenge to handle this problem,” Flicker wrote in an email. “So my view was that four sites – with the basic services that we’re requiring such as running water, toilets and lighting – was a number that the city can competently handle.

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Supply of homes for sale dried up in November across metro Denver

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Supply of homes for sale dried up in November across metro Denver

Snow wasn’t the only thing missing in metro Denver in November. Home listings dried up, with the inventory of available properties down by a third from October. The shortage is so severe that single-family home prices revisited record highs reached this summer, according to a monthly update from the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

There were 1,444single-family homes for sale at the end of November, down 38.4% from October and 17.7% from a year earlier. The supply of condos and townhomes fell 21.6% month-over-month and 51.6% on the year to 804 listings. Normally, the inventory of homes for sale drops 11.4% between October and November, and last month’s decline was one for the record books, DMAR said.

November’s inventory was also a record low for the month, according to the report. If December sees a 25% drop in inventory from November, metro Denver could end the year with a paltry 1,686 active properties, noted Andrew Abrams, chairman of the DMAR Market Trends Committee, which compiles the monthly report.

“That is drastically lower than the end of 2020 and could lead to the most competitive year yet,” he said in comments included with the report, adding that 2021 homes sales are on track to surpass annual sales seen in any year in the past five years.

A nearly 30% drop in new listings compared to October contributed to the inventory shortages, but new listings last month were on par with November 2020. Demand remains strong, with 4,392 closings but only 3,741 new listings hitting the market. Closings were down 10.4% from October, but that appears to be more about a lack of homes to buy. Half of new listings went under contract in five days or less after hitting the market.

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Developers planning Denver apartments pay $11.7 million for Golden Triangle site

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Developers planning Denver apartments pay $11.7 million for Golden Triangle site

A pair of development firms planning a large apartment complex in the Golden Triangle have purchased the land.

Denver-based Summit Capital Venture Group and New York-based Rockefeller Group paid about $11.7 million across four separate deals this week for parcels at the southeast corner of 12th Avenue and Delaware Street, according to public records.

The parcels — 328 W. 12th Ave. and 1140, 1150 and 1158 N. Delaware St. — add up to 0.72 acres, according to property records. That makes the collective deal worth about $373 a square foot for the land. Travis Hodge and Tony Bobay of Capstone represented the seller in two of the transactions.

Summit and Rockefeller said in a statement that they plan to build a 13-story, 250-unit apartment complex with about 2,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

“With the current focus on the redevelopment of the Golden Triangle area, this was an ideal opportunity to launch a partnership with Rockefeller Group,” Jason Marcotte, a founding partner at Summit Capital Venture Group, said in a statement. “We are excited to further enrich the neighborhood with quality housing options and thoughtful retail activation at the street level.”

The properties are home to multiple structures, including an office building at 1140 Delaware St. used by and sold by the Junior League of Denver.

The site is home to multiple structures, including an office building used by the Junior League of Denver. (Thomas Gounley photo)

“Our plan is to find another stand-alone building that is right for our purposes,” Junior League President Caryne Mesquita told BusinessDen Thursday. “We are in the process of looking at buildings right now. As we look at the market, we’re finding there aren’t many out there. We may be doing a short-term lease to give us time. We still want a Denver address, somewhere in the Central Business District or a little bit farther south. But probably not right in the middle of downtown.”

Rockefeller and Summit’s project is expected to break ground in April and be completed in early 2024, according to the companies.

Summit has 466 multifamily units in development, and owns another 174 units between Denver and Salt Lake City that it acquired, according to the company. Rockefeller, meanwhile — whose top local executive is Jay Despard, formerly of Hines — is one of the two firms that owns the former Greyhound block in downtown Denver.

The Golden Triangle has become a hub for significant multifamily development in recent years, and changes approved by the Denver City Council this summer paved the way for taller buildings.

Major developers active in the neighborhood include Denver-based Urban Villages, Charlotte-based Lennar Multifamily Communities and Charleston, South Carolina-based Greystar.

BusinessDen reporter Eric Heinz contributed to this story.

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A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans for mountain bike park in Conifer

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A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans for mountain bike park in Conifer

CONIFER — A titanic battle of Colorado values and priorities is brewing over a proposed mountain bike park on a 9,000-foot mountain overlooking this quiet foothills community 40 minutes from Denver.

On one side are the thousands of cyclists who take to the state’s roads and trails every day, seeking the thrill and challenge of rolling across world-class terrain amid jaw-dropping settings. On the other are long-time mountain residents, adamant about keeping Colorado’s relentless growth at bay while protecting a peacefulness and quietude that is increasingly under strain.

The battle lines in this faceoff are drawn on a heavily wooded 250-acre parcel along Shadow Mountain Drive just west of Conifer, where a plan to build Colorado’s first dedicated lift-access mountain bike park — with 16 miles of trails and an 830-foot vertical drop spanned by a chairlift — has resulted in dueling campaigns for and against it.

A Change.org petition in support of the project has gathered nearly 2,500 signatures while an effort to stymie the plan has garnered around 4,400 signatures.

John Lewis, a member of a well-organized group fighting the proposed project, said he and his neighbors are ready for the Full Send Bike Ranch proposal to land in front of the Jefferson County Planning Commission. The men behind the project say that could come as early as next month, with a hoped-for opening in 2023 should the county give its blessing.

Lewis last week pointed to a vast slope of evergreen trees fronted by North Turkey Creek burbling through a sun-dappled mountain meadow as natural features he doesn’t want to see degraded or disturbed by the construction of a downhill mountain bike facility with a 300-space parking lot.

He worries about hundreds of vehicles traversing narrow Shadow Mountain Drive every day, negotiating blind curves and racing past driveways to reach the bike park. He worries about impacts to wildlife and to the bucolic views he and his neighbors have enjoyed for decades.

He also worries about an increase in wildfire danger — a flicked cigarette from a moving car, perhaps — to an area that is already tinder dry.

“It’s just not appropriate for a residential area,” Lewis said, driving his truck several miles up Shadow Mountain Drive and passing dozens of signs denouncing the project. “I don’t mind these guys building their bike park — but why here?”

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Ranch near the corner of Shadow Mountain Drive and South Warhawk Road. in Conifer, Colorado on Friday, December 3, 2021. Full Send Bike Ranch will be a 250-acre lift access downhill mountain bike park at the area. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“Just about the riding”

“These guys” are Jason Evans and Phil Bouchard, lifelong friends and bike aficionados from New Hampshire who moved to Colorado last year just as the COVID-19 pandemic was descending on the state. Bouchard, who describes himself as the “strategy” side of the Full Send operation, defends the project as a net gain for the Conifer area.

He said he and his business partner will be working with the U.S. Forest Service to do major wildfire mitigation on the site, removing dead and down trees to make it far safer than it is now. And he said the Full Send Bike Ranch will help draw cyclists off other trails in the area that are currently overcrowded.

“We think the park will alleviate a bit of pressure on a lot of trail systems,” Bouchard said.

Opponents, he said, have painted the project as an assault to the neighborhood. But there will be no nighttime operations lit up with bright lights and no plans to have competitions with loudspeakers blaring riders’ names and results, Bouchard said.

“It’s a relatively low-impact recreational development that is closed six months of the year,” he said.

The park, he said, answers an unmet demand from Colorado’s avid cycling community. While a number of the state’s ski resorts — including Breckenridge, Keystone and the popular Trestle at Winter Park — offer lift-assisted downhill freeride mountain bike runs, Bouchard said they are sideshows to their primary ski operations.

“It’s just about the riding,” he said of Full Send Bike Ranch.

Full Send would be just over a half hour from the metro area via U.S. 285, and because it’s at a lower elevation than the state’s ski resorts, could be open for more days in the year — with a season extending from April to November.

“If you want to go mountain biking, you don’t have to wait until Saturday and put in a three-hour commute on Interstate 70,” Bouchard said. “You could go after work on a Wednesday.”

Plans also call for a lodge where riders can enjoy a beer after a run. Tickets would be priced at $50 to $80 a day, with season passes available, Bouchard said. The effort to build the park would be a multi-million dollar one, money Bouchard and his partner are confident they can raise if the project is approved by Jefferson County.

The friends are working on a lease arrangement with Colorado’s State Land Board, which owns the parcel.

Gary Moore, executive director of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association, said the Full Send Bike Ranch “scratches an itch” among the state’s earnest pedalers.

“They’re coming at this from a clean sheet design,” he said. “They could really just do what they want to do without facing restraints. There’s a huge contingent of mountain bikers on the Front Range that aren’t getting access to that style of riding.”

1638627057 690 A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Stop Bike Ranch sign near the corner of Shadow Mountain Drive and South Warhawk Road. in Conifer, Colorado on Friday, December 3, 2021. Full Send Bike Ranch will be a 250-acre lift access downhill mountain bike park at the area. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“God’s country”

But neighbors point to Jefferson County’s own Conifer/285 Area Plan, updated in 2014, which notes that residents “value the community’s natural environment and rural neighborhoods.”

“Passive and active recreation facilities, including recreational buildings and outdoor multi-use fields, should be designed to respect and be compatible with the area’s natural resources, rural character and adjacent land uses,” the document states.

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