Nov 02, 2017
DENVER – The Community Planning and Development Department needs more resources before it can finish the recommended analysis of simplifying zoning codes. As a result, it will take another two years before the department can say whether converting to a single zoning code would simplify zoning rules.
In a follow-up report, Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, found three of the recommendations from a 2015 audit were not implemented. In the 2015 report, Auditor O’Brien called on the department to show the citizens of Denver that consolidation to one zoning code would be in the best interest of the city and of the taxpayers.
In 2015, the department said having two zoning codes created challenges associated with staff training, equal treatment of all citizens and long-term success of the city’s goals. Despite the department’s efforts, administrators since then have been unable to complete an assessment of whether converting to a single zoning code would improve the consistency and equity of their work.
“Community Planning and Development is working hard to treat everyone fairly and improve efficiency of operations,” Auditor O’Brien said. “However, there could be even more improvement if they completed the analysis of code simplification.”
Denver currently administers two zoning codes simultaneously. Chapter 59 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code was adopted in 1956. This code included an official map showing the various zoning districts in Denver. In 2010, the city also adopted the new Denver Zoning Code. When this new zoning code was adopted, Denver estimated about 20 percent of city land would still be regulated under the old zoning code. The land was excluded from the new codes due to unique or custom zoning conditions that made it difficult to align with elements of the new code.
After the 2015 audit, the department started looking into whether converting to a single zoning code would improve consistency. However, the department has not clearly outlined the costs and benefits of the conversion, analyzed associated risk or established a framework for evaluating the success of a conversion.
“Analyzing the risks and costs of converting to a single zoning code could also help the department improve operations overall,” Auditor O’Brien said.
Community Planning and Development was unable to secure the funds needed to complete the analysis. However, department officials say they plan to look for future opportunities to move forward with the work.
The original recommendations were expected to be complete by the end of this year. The department acknowledges that won’t happen. The new target date for implementing the code simplification analysis is the end of 2019.