Citizen group rallies to limit housing growth in Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- The city of Lakewood might go the way of Boulder and Golden when it comes to limiting growth.

Residents collected thousands of signatures to force the city council to approve a measure that limits the number of housing units or to put it up to a vote of the people.

“This initiative is about managing our growth in Lakewood,” said Cathy Kentner, who heads Lakewood Strategic Growth.

The schoolteacher and single mom is the force behind the group pushing the initiative that would manage growth in the state’s fifth-most populated city.

“We have at least 7,500 people who signed our petition. And we really believe this is something the Lakewood voters wanted," she said about the efforts to change Lakewood land-use laws.

The initiative limits the number of new residential units built in Lakewood to 1 percent of existing housing per year.

“For 2018, it means 650 units could be built,” she said.

Under the initiative, each unit in a new apartment complex counts toward the limit. Currently, an entire complex counts as one permit.

“With the new system, that 300-unit apartment building needs 300 allocations,” Kentner said.

It also requires housing projects with 40 units or more to have a hearing and be approved by the city council.

“This is about giving small business and the community a voice," she said.

Kentner said too many of the housing projects are taking land meant for mixed-use of residential, office space and retail.

“If we replace all our land that’s meant for jobs with apartment buildings, we won’t have the walkable communities envisioned in our land-use plans,” she said.

She also said the community is worried about 3,000 to 4,000 residential units planned in the scenic Rooney Valley.

"The concern is there are not enough natural resources, not enough water. We don't have the infrastructure -- the schools, the roads -- and not planning that stuff before allowing the development," Kentner said.

But Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul calls the initiative “irresponsible and riddled with unintended consequences.”

“Limiting growth can harm the vitality and affordability of a city," Paul said.

He says restricting housing "will drive prices higher ... and make Lakewood too expensive for teachers, police officers, firefighters ... who provide important services to the public.”

He also said companies don’t invest in new jobs in communities with stagnant or negative growth.

“I can understand where groups whose focus is on the developer and the bottom-line profit for the developer may have issues with this,” Kentner said.

If the city’s clerk decides the group collected enough signatures, it goes to the city council on Aug. 28.

The council could approve it or let voters decide during a planned election on Nov. 7.