Developer could take over city land for less than $2K, build hotel

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DENVER -- A developer could soon take over a small vacant lot in Denver's bustling Ballpark neighborhood for less than $2,000 because of state law and local rules.

Currently, the plot at West 29th Avenue and Chestnut Place is filled with rocks and a few small trees. It is surrounded by new apartments.

Chestnut Place LLC has requested the city of Denver, which owns the plot, to vacate the area so it can build an eight-story hotel in the area. That’s because the land is technically a public right-of-way that was obtained by the city in the 1870s. The area around it has developed over time, but the designation for the plot has remained the same over the past 150 years.

Under state law, the city can’t sell a public right-of-way. If the right-of-way is not being used for transportation or other factors, an adjacent property can request the city vacate the area. The Department of Public Works oversees these requests, charging $1,600 in fees for review. They receive between two to three dozen of these vacation projects per year.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the fact that we’re going to be giving away almost 6,000 square feet to a developer for free,” said Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca during a Council Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting Tuesday.

The request had 42 people filing protests about the proposal, but Director of Public Works Right of Way Services Matt Bryner said there was no technical merit found. The complaints included people valuing green space, protesting the density and pointing out that there is a B Cycle station on the lot.

Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval asked why the fees weren’t higher for the process to reflect rising property value, as the rates were set in 2003.

“So we’re making decisions in 2019 based on fees that were established in 2003?” Sandoval asked.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers asked Public Works the same question and are waiting for a response.

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