Denver city council to change landmark designation process with fairness in mind


Remember the Tom’s Diner saga?

Denver’s protocol for allowing people to nominate buildings as city landmarks against a property owner’s wishes has been controversial for years. The City Council is now poised to tweak its process for reviewing landmark applications with equal treatment in mind.

“What we keep hearing is it feels unfair to people who are owners of property that might be designated for some reason or another,” Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer said at a committee meeting covering the rule changes last month, adding the tweaks will help level the playing field.

The council on Monday approved a bill that grants building owners “a reasonable opportunity to present their case regarding the proposed designation” as part of the public hearing process. That “reasonable opportunity” applies to landmark designations for specific buildings where the owner did not consent to the application and to applications to create historic districts that contain properties where one or more owners oppose being in a district. Once a building is designated as being historic or being in a historic district, there are strict rules governing its appearance and many changes must be approved by the city.

In simple terms, that reasonable opportunity means that property owners will be given time to deliver a presentation stating their case against landmark status in front of the council. City planning department staff already deliver presentations on each application while owners must sign up to speak as part of the public hearing. Those speaking slots are capped at three minutes each.

The bill passed as part of the council’s consent agenda without discussion, signaling broad support for it. It must come back before the council for a second reading next week before it becomes law.  A companion measure that makes specific changes to the City Council’s rules of procedure to codify the presentation requirement is also in the works. Those changes would include allowing speakers in historic district hearings to pool time to allow for longer presentations.


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