Zoning Code statement
Denver recently held hearings on public comment on the
new proposed zoning code. Each person had three minutes to make
their case. Below is my statement at the November 19, 2009
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My name is Keith Akers, and I'm in District 4. I want to
address three topics: solar access, backyard food animals, and granny
It is urgent to support solar access to protect solar PV
installations, to protect access to passive solar, and to protect
backyard garden space. We are facing serious and growing energy
problems, such as global warming and peak oil, and the zoning code needs
to acknowledge these new realities. In Colorado our most obvious asset
is sunshine, and we must have a zoning code that protects against
"shade pollution" and gives access to sunshine at least in the
surburban and urban edge zones.
It is important not only to protect active and passive solar, but
also to protect garden space. Agriculture is the area most heavily
impacted by rising energy costs, it is even more heavily affected than
the transportation sector. In the coming years, we will not need to
promote increasing use of gardens; we will only need to allow them to
develop, and to give them the protection which solar access gives.
I do not, however, support the use of backyard food animals. Food
animals attract predators and create noise and odor problems. Many
people thinking about chickens are not aware of the cost and
inconvenience of predator-proof shelter and veterinary care. This will
likely lead to an increase in animal cruelty and abandoned animals and
increased stress on animal shelters, just at a time when city services
need to be cut back. Potential owners are also often not aware that
animals are only productive for a few years, that goats (for example)
need to be kept pregnant in order to give milk, that half of all goats
born are male, and that goats are very destructive of property. If we do
allow food animals, they should only be for eggs, such as chickens, and
food animals for meat should not be allowed. We donít want to bring
slaughterhouses and slaughtering into our neighborhoods.
Finally, I am in favor of increased use of granny flats or accessory
dwelling units. This would allow creative ways for people to make better
use of the limited space we have in Denver. Greater urban density means
more shops and services and easier transportation choices. There is no
contradiction between allowing solar access and allowing granny flats.
Much of the concern about granny flats, in my view, stems from concern
about issues such as solar access. If you allow people to build granny
flats but require that they permit their neighbors access to sunshine,
they will figure out a way to do it.
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Here are some explanations for those not familiar with Denver
politics. "Solar access" is a term used for the right not to
have the sunshine blocked by some huge house just to your south. The
most obvious problem is solar PV panels: itís conceivable that you
could build solar panels on your roof, but then your neighbor to the
south could scrape the house and build a McMansion that would block your
"Backyard food animals" refers mostly to backyard chickens,
but these days some are proposing other food animals be allowed as
well. While I don't give it much chance, some people are pushing
urban goats for dairy and meat.
"Granny flats" is one term for "accessory dwelling
units," and are also sometimes known as "carriage houses"
or "garage apartments." They are typically tucked away behind
the main home, giving owners the option to rent out part of their
property as a separate dwelling space.
ó Keith Akers
November 27, 2009