Littleton City Council OKs downtown guidelines

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By Emile Hallez

The Littleton City Council approved last week a new planning guideline for the historic downtown area, a document that had stalled in recent months over suggested caps on building height and other issues.

After the city’s planning commission had invested nearly four years into the revised document, now dubbed the Downtown Neighborhood Plan, city council members late last year made dozens of revisions before sending a draft back to the commission. The most contentious issue appears to have been building height limits — the initial document did not include any caps on height, and council members suggested keeping new buildings in most of the area under 40 feet. The approved revision does not place a specific cap on heights, though it states any new buildings should respect the area’s “historic scale and character.”

“There really aren’t any height restrictions. The only thing that restricts the height is the current zoning, which hasn’t changed,” community development director Glen Van Nimwegen said, noting that the document should protect an unobstructed view of the mountains to the west. “There’s a lower scale to Main Street. The lowest height should be at Main Street and should cascade up form there.”

The new plan, which does not affect existing zoning or other regulations, provides guidelines for land use, open space, historic preservation, transportation and other areas. During the lengthy public outreach process, the planning commission determined building height was among top concerns, and consequently spent significant time drafting that portion of the document.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the document, which included the planning commission’s recommendations following the council’s earlier revisions.

“The council was concerned that maybe it was too lengthy of a document and didn’t match the format of the old plan,” Van Nimwegen said. “Council’s concern was that we needed to make it a readable doc and not overload it with extraneous information.”

The document also encourages improvements to bicyclist and pedestrian access in the downtown area, including connections from the light-rail station to Main Street and Arapahoe Community College.

The plan serves as a guideline to the planning commission when building owners request zoning changes for their properties.

“If they want to changes the rules, we’ll go back to the Downtown Neighborhood Plan and see if what is proposed is supported by the plan,” Van Nimwegen said.

The plan is only a portion of Littleton’s comprehensive plan, or COMPLAN, other pieces of which will be revised in the future and may use the downtown revision as a blueprint.

“It was a learning exercise for all of us. Most of us have never done a COMPLAN before,” Mayor Debbie Brinkman said, noting that the document will make other revisions easier. “We don’t have to re-invent the wheel.”


Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22.