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A view of the northern Front Range is seen from Lookout Mountain near Golden
A view of the northern Front Range is seen from Lookout Mountain near Golden on March 9, 2023. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
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Lakewood will repeal its residential growth cap over the next two years, the City Council decided this week, capitulating to a new state law outlawing such ceilings and backing off threats to sue over the statute passed by the legislature this year. 

But Golden, another city with a cap, punted on Tuesday when its City Council held a closed-door meeting with their attorney and then didn’t take any action.

House Bill 1255, passed by the Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis earlier this year, prohibits cities from imposing residential growth caps and requires municipalities with existing caps to remove them. The measure is aimed at boosting housing stock to drive down prices. It went into effect this week. 

Lakewood and Golden are among four Colorado cities that had caps when the law was passed and that are struggling to respond to the new law. The other two cities are Boulder and Lafayette, which also haven’t taken any action yet. 

City Council members in Boulder, which hasn’t enforced its growth cap in many years, in June directed their staff to create an ordinance to repeal its growth cap. Lafayette has looked at its options but not taken any action.

As for Golden, it’s unclear what direction it will go.

But the move by Lakewood on Monday quashes the idea that the cities would band together and sue the state over whether or not it can supersede voter’s decisions around growth caps.

Lakewood’s City Council passed an emergency ordinance on Monday during an emotional, two-hour gathering. The city’s growth cap, which was approved by voters in 2019, limits residential development to 1% each year. In 2022, about 700 units were allowed to be built under the growth limitation. 

The city will develop a new land-use plan during the two-years and could remove the cap before the end of the period. 

“What this ordinance does is eventually bring the city into compliance with 1255, but gives the city some time to get there,” Lakewood City Attorney Alison McKenney Brown said.

The city is also considering whether to opt into Proposition 123, Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said, to access affordable housing dollars under the statewide program approved by voters in 2022. 

Lakewood’s growth cap is the newest in the state. Lafayette’s was enacted in 1995, amended in 2012, and revised again in 2017 to encourage construction of affordable housing. Golden’s was approved in 1995. Boulder’s cap was placed in 1975 and amended in 1995.  

Members of the Lakewood City Council attempted twice since the bill was signed into law to enter executive session to discuss how to respond. But the efforts were blocked both times by members of the council who argued the discussion needed to happen in public view.

When asked by members of the council if it was legal for the state to impose the law, a member of the city’s legal team said she couldn’t comment in public session on that question. 

There were two other options for the City Council outlined by their legal staff. One option, which Councilwoman Mary Janssen attempted to pursue in a motion, asked the city’s staff to not recognize the law as valid and to continue enforcing the city’s strategic growth initiative. It failed with a 7-4 vote.

The city also could have voted to repeal their ordinance immediately. 

In an interview with The Colorado Sun in June, Paul indicated that the City Council was considering fighting the legislation’s legality. 

“I don’t know if everybody on my council would be willing to say ‘yeah, state of Colorado, you have the authority to do this,’” he said at the time.

Paul has been a vocal opponent of the growth cap and said if it was removed, he didn’t think there would be much substantial change to the amount of development in the city. 

The Lakewood City Council members who voiced support for challenging the law argued that the state doesn’t have the right to preempt the will of voters in their city. 

Lakewood seldom turned developers away because of their growth cap, Paul said.

House Bill 1255 gives cities the option to enact a temporary anti-growth law for one of three reasons: a declared disaster emergency, to create a new land use plan and to acquire additional public infrastructure, services or water.

Colorado Sun staff reporter Jesse Paul contributed to this report.

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community...