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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 hearing.

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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 flats.

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.

Thank you.

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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 solar panels.

"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