Denver Referred Question 2N: The one about who has a say in rezoning protest petitions

Currently, people who own property outside of Denver but near a site about to be rezoned in the city can influence how Council decides whether the rezoning should go through. This measure would change that.
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Downtown Denver is very far away from Montbello. Nov. 18, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In Denver, people who own property within 200 feet of a site facing rezoning have the right to turn in a protest petition that could influence how many City Council members need to approve the rezoning.

If 20% of property owners protest, the petition can force City Council to pass the rezoning with a supermajority vote instead of a simple majority vote. That means people who own property outside the City and County of Denver, but near a site facing rezoning, can actually weigh in on how City Council conducts business, even though these individuals aren't city residents and don't pay local taxes.

Referred Question 2N would make only people who own property in Denver eligible to protest a zoning decision in the city.

It would also clarify that City Council has authority over the formation of zone districts.

Here's the language you'll see on the ballot.

How would it work?

Currently, Denver's Charter states that a supermajority -- 10 City Councilmembers -- have to approve a rezoning if 20% of property owners within 200 feet of a proposed rezoning sign a petition objecting to it. Usually, only a majority -- seven councilmembers -- have to approve.

If 2N passes, it would ensure that the only people who can weigh in on a protest petition are those who own property in Denver -- even if a rezoning would affect a person who owned nearby property that was not in Denver.

The Charter would also be changed to clarify that City Council would limit protest petitions to zone districts, not other sorts of districts like historic or municipal districts.

Who's for it?

There are currently no supporting committees registered with the Clerk and Recorder's office.

Councilmembers Robin Kniech and Amanda Sandoval led the charge on taking this measure to City Council, and every member voted to send it to the people to decide.

Kniech said property owners outside Denver should not interfere with the city's democratic process.

"Just as only residents of Denver are allowed to vote, only property owners within Denver should be allowed to change the democratic voting threshold used by our local government to vote on zoning changes," Kniech wrote. "Those living within two hundred feet but outside of Denver have freedom of speech to write, call, email or testify before council but it is not appropriate for them to change the structure of Denver's government processes when they do not pay taxes within Denver."

Who's against it?

No opposing committees are registered with the Clerk and Recorder's office.

Presumably, some people who own property near Denver, but not inside the city, will miss the ability to protest a rezoning. But they will not have a say in this election and have not organized an opposition.

If an opposition makes itself known, we will update this story.

Need more help voting? Check out the rest of our voter guide here.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify that protest petitions would only apply to zone districts. 

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