If you have walked through the various neighborhoods of Denver, you might have noticed some varying quality in the sidewalks. From updated concrete curbs to broken flagstone, Denver's sidewalks can go from treacherous to modern at any urban corner. The reason for this is due to Denver's original code that made homeowners in charge of their own sidewalks. The sidewalks that are adjacent to their property line are the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain, update, and replace. Obviously, though, that has not been the most ideal situation. In fact, the lack of replacements and maintenance has forced Denver's Community and Planning Department to hold remodels, renovations, and new construction hostage to force the bare minimum of keeping sidewalks usable. However, that is all about to change thanks to Denver's newest Ordinance 307. Lin Merage explains this new ordinance may have an effect on Denver Developers, Homeowners, and those looking to do some work on real estate properties.
Sidewalks became an afterthought
Even if the sidewalks were in complete disarray, there was close to nothing to enforce an owner to replace it.
In fact, the only way a homeowner ever had to replace the sidewalk was when they were performing capital improvements to their home - such as a home remodel or ADU construction. If the home improvement project was big enough in cost or scope, the department for Right-of-Way would be a part of the review process for building permits. They would determine if the sidewalk and/or alleyway would need replacing. Unfortunately, this practice leads to a lot of unforeseen costs and complications for private residential owners. The addition of these improvements would often hold a project back from completion or even threaten the certificate of occupancy. In a sense, it was a tricky way to enforce much-needed improvements.
Naturally, these kinds of surprises on a project can be costly and unreasonable. Lin Merage has had her fair share of ROW updates that were backloaded onto her almost completed residential construction projects. But there is hope that this will no longer be the case.
What is Ordinance 307?
The official language for the ballot measure ordinance 307 states:
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance to create a sidewalk master plan and to implement a sustainable program for the construction, reconstruction, and ongoing repairs of sidewalks citywide; to fund the program by charging a fee to property owners; to create a sidewalk enterprise within the definition of Section 20, Article X, of the Colorado Constitution, with the authority to issue revenue bonds payable solely from the fees collected under this program and without further voter approval; and to remove the adjacent property owner’s current responsibility for sidewalk repair and reconstruction and place such responsibility on the City?
The election results showed that 55.85% voted in favor of the ordinance. Thus making a fee schedule or program for homeowners to pay based on the square footage of the sidewalk that is around their homes. According to Denver Streets Partnerships, it will cost homeowners an average of $107 per year.
What does this mean for owners and builders?
If you own property or are building projects in Denver, like Lin Merage, you will most likely be relieved of any sneaky threats of ROW improvements. In the short term, there might be savings for those who are in the middle of renovations, new construction, and so on. Lin Merage has warned in the past about the potential for having requirements placed on projects by Right-of-Way with little to no warning. Now there is no threat of that but is replaced with an annual fee that will be dedicated to the city's own department designated for sidewalk maintenance and replacement. Only time will tell if this is the right move.