Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Little Lady Who Won't Shut Up

Videotaping around Denver as I do, I often have the good fortune of meeting and getting to know individuals who are inspirational in their efforts to inform us and who are far more knowledgeable than our current City Council members. One such shining example is Cathy Donohue, the little lady who won't shut up. Maybe that's because she knows what she is talking about.

Note to City Council: Better pay attention here or you'll be inviting a whole lot of trouble later.

From former Denver City Councilwoman and indefatigable protector of our parks, Cathy Donohue:

December 9, 2009

Mr. David Fine, City Attorney
Mr. David Broadwell, Assistant City Attorney
Third Floor
City and County Building
Denver, Colorado 80218


Since the current city Charter has been in effect there has never been a re-zoning of land in the City and County of Denver that did not require a separate ordinance and a separate vote of the Council to change the zoning classification of a parcel of Denver land.

In order to clarify this statement, the Charter sections that govern these legal actions are as follows:

Section 3.2.9 (D) Method of procedure. The Council shall provide for the manner in which such regulations and restrictions and the boundaries of such districts shall be determined, established and enforced, and from time to time amended, supplemented or changed. However, no such regulation, restriction or boundary shall become effective until after a public hearing in relation thereto, at which parties in interest and citizens shall have an opportunity to be heard. At least fifteen days notice of the time and place of such hearing shall be published in an official publication of the City and County of Denver.

Section 3.2.9 (E) Changes. Such regulations, restrictions and boundaries may from time to time be amended, supplemented, changed, modified or repealed. In case, however, of a protest against such change, signed by the owners of twenty per cent or more, either of the area of the lot included in such proposed change or of the area to a distance of two hundred feet from the perimeter of the area proposed for change, such amendment shall not become effective except by the favorable vote of ten of the members of the Council of the City and County of Denver. The provisions of the previous Section relative to public hearings and official notice shall apply to all changes or amendments.

Additionally, in Section 3.3.5 Ordinances and Resolutions. The follow Charter provisions are required:
Section 3.3.5 Ordinances and Resolutions.

(A) When required. The Council shall act only by ordinance in matters of legislation or appropriations, or when action by ordinance is otherwise required by this charter, by ordinance, or by general law; and may act by ordinance or resolution in other matters.

(B) Single subject. All ordinances or resolutions, except ordinances making appropriations, shall be confined to one subject, which shall be embraced in any ordinance which shall not be expressed in the title. If any subject shall be embraced in any ordinance which shall not be expressed in the title, such ordinance shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be so expressed. Ordinances making appropriations shall be confined to the subject of appropriations.

Given that this Charter language has not been amended or changed by a vote of the people, the following questions need to be answered in regard to Charter regulations.

1. Will each parcel of park land and private land that is going to be rezoned have it own public hearing and notification?

2. In case of a legal protest of property owners adjacent to any public park, will a super-majority of Council be required to change current park zoning to the new OS zone?

3. Will the property owners be receiving the Charter mandated hearings and separate votes of Council for all zone map changes?

The most troubling and shocking aspect of the City Administration's complete disregard of the Charter regarding the zoning of all land in the City is that no one in the City Attorney's office has taken the duties of the legal work of the City to be a matter of supreme importance. For an entire body of work (the New Zoning Code) to be labored upon by hundreds of people, both elected officials and private citizens, without proper advice by a City Attorney is unbelievable. The emperor truly has no clothes.

I listened to hours of pleas by private citizens about the faults of the code as written. I have attended workshops, both in my neighborhood and with 40 neighborhood groups throughout the city. Never has any person in any official capacity informed the citizens of the Charter requirements that currently exist.

How can we have come this far with such a glaring vacuum in the educational process?

I await your answers to the questions I have posed. Surely, if they are not clarified and answered, many citizens could wish to avail themselves of the rights that have been given to them in our Charter by demanding public hearings and separate votes on each zone change in the new code.

Yours truly,

Cathy Donohue
Former City Councilmember


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