Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

City delay forces DU to wait for answers on new zoning

University officials will have to wait longer than surrounding neighbors for details on how Denver’s new zoning code will affect them.

The first draft of the rewritten code, which affects nearly every piece of property in Denver, will be released to the public June 1 at But the part of the draft directly affecting DU won’t be in it.

For months, Denver residents have been waiting anxiously to see how the new form- and context-based zoning system will affect their property. DU officials have been equally anxious, in large part because the proposed revision does away with the R-3 class of property in which DU has been included since the 1950s. The new code puts colleges and universities in a category called “special context.”

Instead of having property rights in common with multi-unit residences, DU and other schools would have their own “campus” designation and be defined separately. Other designations in the “special context” category are hospitals, industrial centers, civic sites and entertainment/cultural facilities.

Just what this means is still unclear. Details as to how the “campus special context” zoning designation would affect the property rights DU now enjoys won’t be disclosed at the June 1 release, said Tyler Gibbs,  implementation manager of community planning and development, the city planning agency writing the new code. That’s because completion of the first draft of the special context rules has been delayed, Gibbs said at a May 21 meeting at DU. No completion date has been set.

Concern was evident among the quartet of DU officials who attended the May 21 meeting. Some of their queries were about how the University would handle property it might buy that wasn’t designated “campus” and how similar properties it already owns in non-campus locations would be designated.

“Our concern is that an overlay on various properties might put us into a non-conforming use,” said Neil Kraus, DU’s assistant vice chancellor of business and financial affairs. “We have islands.”

Neighbors voiced uncertainties of their own, particularly about the code’s effect on density around light-rail stations and sunlight access for solar arrays and backyard gardens.

Most of the planners’ answers were accompanied by pleas to read the zoning code’s new rules after June 1 and then give comments to the city.

The map that will accompany the new rules and show how neighborhoods will be designated is to be released later in June, city officials said. Meetings to discuss it will be set up in every city council district so residents can provide feedback, District 7 Councilman Chris Nevitt said.

The first of two map meetings in Nevitt’s district, which is west of University Boulevard, is set for June 17 at a location and time to be determined.

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