Littleton City Council rezones downtown

City-owned housing facility for seniors still leaves unsettled issues

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/18/20

Littleton City Council unanimously approved a rezoning of the downtown neighborhood at its Dec. 15 meeting, condensing a hodgepodge of zoning districts into a series of “character areas” meant to …

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Littleton City Council rezones downtown

City-owned housing facility for seniors still leaves unsettled issues

Posted

Littleton City Council unanimously approved a rezoning of the downtown neighborhood at its Dec. 15 meeting, condensing a hodgepodge of zoning districts into a series of “character areas” meant to provide a more cohesive approach to land use.

What the rezoning means for Geneva Village — a city-owned, rent-restricted senior housing facility near city hall — remains murky.

The rezoning formally completes a high-profile step in the Unified Land Use Code, a multi-year effort to rebuild the city’s land use codes from the ground up.

The rezoning affects the “downtown football,” a 180-acre area bounded by Church Street on the south, Santa Fe Drive on the west, Belleview Avenue on the north, and the railroad tracks on the east.

Home to Historic Downtown Littleton, the area is the city’s oldest neighborhood and has been the site of massive redevelopment in the past decade.

Previously governed by 11 separate zoning codes, the rezone brings the number down to seven, with a focus on just four: Downtown Main Street, Downtown Mixed Use, Downtown Transition Area and Downtown Neighborhood Residential.

The remaining three are Public/Institutional, largely governing city and county offices; Open Space, covering Geneva Park; and a Downtown Mixed Use area that limits building height to three stories.

Many of the regulations governing the zoning districts were laid out over the summer and fall in a series of zoning code amendments, and included rules surrounding building height and parking.

The thorniest question to arise from the process is how the rezoning will affect Geneva Village.

Under the old zoning, Geneva Village was within the Central Area Multiple Use zone, like much of the downtown neighborhood. The new zoning places it within Downtown Mixed Use with a three-story building height limit.

Geneva Village has been a political hot potato since 2019, when South Metro Housing Options, the city’s public housing authority, pulled out of managing the property, leaving the city in charge.

Some members of the public who called into the meeting said they wished the rezoning offered stronger protections for Geneva Village, fearing the move was a precursor to selling the complex and displacing vulnerable residents.

“Taking care of our seniors and giving them a safe place to live should be one of our number one priorities in life,” said resident Jeanie Erickson, who has long championed leaving Geneva Village in city ownership. “We don’t have enough affordable senior apartments in Littleton as it is.”

Robyn Bernstein, who lives at Geneva Village, begged council to maintain the complex as-is.

“Where would we go?” Bernstein said. “It’s got historic merit, it’s green space, and it’s money in the bank for you people in the future.”

Councilmembers Karina Elrod and Pam Grove said they felt Geneva Village fit in nicely with the adjoining Geneva Lodge and Geneva Lake to form a pleasant entryway to downtown from Prince Street. Grove suggested perhaps Geneva Village could fit within its own special zoning district in the future.

Councilmember Pat Driscoll called Geneva Village “the elephant in the room” and said it’s high time the city figure out a long-term plan for the property.

“We’ve talked about not wanting to be a landlord,” Driscoll said. “I’d like for us to dig our heels in and talk about what Geneva Village looks like going forward ... I’d like to put a (To Be Determined) label on that property, then come back and figure out the best use.”

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