Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU officials, neighbors to look at new zoning code

DU officials and community members will be on campus Wednesday evening in pursuit of the same goal: Learn more details about how the city’s new zoning code will affect them.

For the first time since the rezoning process began four years ago, residents will be able to see a map of their neighborhoods and get a clearer idea of how the revamped language might affect their property.

The meeting is from 6-9 p.m. in the Governor’s Ballroom in Driscoll North and is sponsored by Denver Community Planning and Development. As many as 300 people are expected.

The idea behind the meeting is to raise questions, encourage criticism and point out problems in how the revamped code might affect both the campus and the community. The suggestions that come from the session will be incorporated into the second draft of the new code, which comes out in August.

DU officials expect to hear plenty from the public and get in their own views as well, particularly about how the code might affect property the university owns and might sell, property it might buy, and property it already owns.

For example, had the draft language been in place when Nelson and Centennial student residence halls were built, University Architect Mark Rodgers pointed out recently that both buildings would have been affected — either moved slightly or had their architectural footprints altered.

Another issue concerns the height of buildings at the interior of campus. At present, there is essentially no limit, Rodgers says. The proposed draft code sets one though the number of floors has not been determined.

“Right now, we have a lot of flexibility,” Rodgers says. “We don’t want to give up too much of it. And we want to be careful that we know what we’ve given up.”

Officials have set meetings in each City Council district; June 17 is the session for Council District 7, which is on the west side of University Boulevard. District 6 is east of University Boulevard and will have its meeting on July 9 from 6-9 p.m. at a location not yet determined.

The revamped zoning code is a significant departure from the present code, which city officials describe as “complicated, inconsistent and cumbersome.” Instead of using designations such as R-1 or B-4 to describe rules for residences and businesses, the new code uses a set of six neighborhood types called “contexts” to determine the shape, size and style of buildings. The six contexts are Suburban, Urban Edge, Urban, General Urban, Urban Center and Downtown.

“This context-based approach provides a broader range of zoning categories than is currently available,” the city says on its Web site.

The contexts are like stepping stones, with each adding or modifying permitted uses. The “Suburban” context, for example, describes curved streets that serve single-family residences and limit commercial activity to shopping centers.

The “Downtown” context includes the city’s tallest buildings and contains the greatest commercial and residential mix, mass transit activity and pedestrian mobility. The other contexts are in between.

But some uses, such as for universities, don’t fit one of the six contexts, so they are listed in a “special context” category. This category also includes Denver International Airport, government buildings, industrial areas, recreation and open space districts, and special development situations. Within “special context” is the “Campus” designation, which sets the rules for colleges and universities, hospitals, and large institutional or business sites.

Attached to each designation is a menu of uses that are permitted, either outright or with limitations or special review.

Most of the approved uses for the “Campus” designation are self-evident, such as student housing, libraries and performing arts centers. And many of the forbidden uses also seem reasonable, such prohibitions on pawn shops, junkyards, hazardous materials storage facilities, kennels or tents for a religious service.

To review the draft zoning code, comment on the plan or learn what’s going on, visit

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