18th and Sherman Project Denied View Plane Variance

In the latest issue of Life on Capitol Hill, Vanessa Martin reports that the condo project planned for the corner of E. 18th Avenue and Sherman Street was denied a variance from the City Park View Plane by the Denver Planning Board. Back on March 10, I opined about this proposed project and the requested view plane variance.

According to the developers, as a consequence of the denial, the site will not be developed and will remain a surface parking lot. For all the details, here’s the full article by Vanessa: 18th & Sherman Project Denied View Plane Variance.

By | 2010-01-30T22:55:02+00:00 April 1, 2008|Categories: Skyline, Zoning & Regulation|21 Comments


  1. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I don't understand why this wouldn't be approved. It makes now since as it has no impact whatsoever on views of the mountains. From the article there seems to be some contradiction on whether or not they will pursue other variations of the project: “Right now we are exploring all of our other options for the site,” project manager Andrea Wahlen of Sherman Properties told LIFE. “We will continue to work with community groups as we develop a superior product for the property.”

  2. Ryan Nee April 1, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Great! In fact, they should tear down the whole damn city — it's blocking my view of the mountains.

    Seriously though, these idiots should move out of the city. If you want to have guaranteed views of the mountains, live in the mountains. Living in the city, you should expect — especially if you live next to a parking lot — that your views could get blocked sometime in the future.

  3. The Artistic Mercenary™ April 1, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I'm not a Colorado native and I can tell you that the view plane ordinance is a bunch of bull. If Denver wants to be a big city and play with the big boys then they're going to have to come to grips with the fact that not everyone needs a view of the mountains all the time. This is ridiculous, bush-league, cow-town business. You want a view of the mountains? Move west of the tall buildings!

  4. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 10:59 am

    To be honest this seems a bit bizarre. First of all, the view plane is intended to preserve mountain views, not views of other buildings – was evidence in fact presented that this building would block mountain views? Also, isn't the purpose of the view plane and other zoning ordinances to make the city a better place? I fail to see how perpetuating the current use of that parcel as a surface parking lot achieves that goal. Form over substance… stupid.

  5. Saint April 1, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    So… the question for all fans of taller than 5 story buildings is, how do we change the mountain view ordinance?

    I for one wouldn't mind seeing downtown extend into Uptown, with more Pinnacle size towers strewn across. And personally, I think it'd look better from City Park. I suppose, first we'd have to find more people to agree with that…

  6. gash22 April 1, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    This is just plain silly. This ordinance is designed to protect the mountain views. This project was not tall enough to block views of the mountains, only views of other buildings.

    As they not in the article, this may preclude development of 18 surface parking lots if they are not willing to be more flexiable…. shame

  7. Mojiferous April 1, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Always nice to see that the planning board would rather let the letter of the law preside, making sure that no one's view of the back end of republic plaza or 18th & sherman is blocked…
    I would be of the opinion that this is over the line from "concerned, level-headed preservationist" to "outrageously overwrought NIMBYism"- I really don't think anyone steps into the view plane lightly, no one would ever think about building a 50 story monster right on the western edge of city park- but a building that wouldn't even block anything but the views of other buildings, rejected because it might eat away at your precious ordinance? Seems stifling to business and more harmful to the city than helpful.

  8. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I think that the view plane boundary needs to move east of it's current location. Placing it along Pennsylvania or farther east still protects the views, but allows for natural and economically sound development of the CBD. I think that the members of the Planning Board should hear a few comments. Perhaps a letter or petition is in order?

  9. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Yeah – I agree that the board is being a stickler to an outdated rule that doesn't little to protect the view plane, but hinders development.

    Regardless, this looks like a nice project – is there a possibility that they could build it on any of the numerous open lots that are within the city variance?

    I'm sure they could get a heck of a deal on the sea of asphalt between Lincoln and Broadway.

  10. Matt Pizzuti April 1, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    So, because the planning board decided to stick to the city ordinance, we're blaming them for the developer's choice to scrap the whole project?

    Abandoning a project in light of these circumstances is like throwing the chess board against the wall half way through the game because you're losing. Or, as a more timely example, it's like saying you'll vote for John McCain because your candidate didn't win the Democratic nomination.

    The developer had TWO plans for the site, and could have gone along with the second choice. This isn't the planning board's fault. No way. The board's job is to make a judgment call and the board did that.

    I think the developer is either 1) bluffing to stir up an uproar to encourage the board to change its decision or 2) wasn't that enthusiastic about this project in the first place.

    You can disagree with the decision, but mind you this website attracts the interest of the most avid building-enthusiasts and does not reflect the opinion or taste of the city at large. Most people in Denver are in favor of the viewplane ordinance.

    Here's something: if the developer isn't going to build on the parking lot, the company should sell it to someone else who will.

  11. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Fear of Change…isn't there a phobia for that? Actually this is a result of 'usual' reactionaries who showed up to moan their opinion at something that seems to be threatening the fabric of mountain views…(who or what particular perspective said that was so? Then 'popular' [not widespread] opinion becomes bylaw) My question is: Did any of us proponents show up to the city council meeting? And since we didn't all the council heard was a flock of naysayers facing those profit seeking developers. It's a science fiction movie from the 60's and 70's which doesn't reflect present day progressive asparations. But if we don't make our voices heard then nothing changes. So I agree that we need to rally around changing the mountain view plane ordinary ordinance or…how about we start our own neighborhood group with the city council and we could call it Inner City Neighbors for Density or something…too bad most of us are too busy to actually commit to that work, which leaves me to speculate that these naysaying flocks have more idle time to produce effective noted resistance, causing the usual cog in the wheel.

  12. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Planning Commission decisions are made based on legal regulations. They cannot make arbitrary decisions based on whether they agree with a rule or not. Hopefully what comes of this is a change to the regulation.

  13. Anonymous April 1, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    The planning board is a bunch of bureaucrats. 18th and Sherman should be considered part of the downtown skyline and not be included in the City Park view-plane ordinance. This building would not have blocked mountain views. A nice looking building would have only improved the view from City Park. It is a shame that the board couldn't have use some logic instead of sticking to their precious "6 Requirements."

  14. Saint April 2, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Matt, I'd argue whether or not most people in Denver care about the view plane ordinance – or even know about it – from City Park. That ordinance is half a century old, it's about time to update it. Heck, all of the view planes should be reviewed again, since the nature and population of the city has somewhat changed since they were enacted.

  15. Matt Pizzuti April 2, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the Planning Board's decision on this parcel, I don't know all the details and I don't know the political consequences of this choice. I assume that if I were in the Board's position, I would more liberally allow the development to continue with the modified height restriction request.

    However, what I am saying is, first, it's not the planning board's fault that the developer decided to scrap the project. The developer knew the height restriction was there when the company bought the property!

    Second, I am doubtful that this project has actually been scrapped due to the Board's decision as indicated. I think the developer is hoping to create an uproar, or else wasn't entirely committed to the project in the first place.

    The blog entry reads "as a consequence of the denial, the site will not be developed…"

    I slightly disagree with this characterization. The developer has full agency over this development proposal and DID have a viable alternative plan if the view plane ordinance wasn't changed. The statement from the developers seems like a ploy to tug at the heartstrings of those who want to see fewer parking lots downtown, and it is HARDLY being voiced in the spirit of cooperation.

    However, I more strongly disagree with comments putting the blame firmly on the backs of the Planning Board. They are not responsible for the developer backing out of the alternative proposal, and are certainly not responsible for whether the lot remains parking lot or not.

  16. Anonymous April 2, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I think Ken actually described the situation. A consequence of the Planning Board's decision is that the site won't be developed (according to the developers). Ken didn't say that the Planning Board prohibited all development on the site.

    And the Board's decision, whether wrong or right, was a cause of the abandonment of the proposal. You can defend the Board's decision, but you must also come to grips with the consequences of that decision, else you're not honestly evaluating the decision.

  17. Matt Pizzuti April 3, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Anon at 3:00PM, my argument is not defending the Board's decision, it's that the Board is not responsible for the developer's decision to cancel the project. My argument is also not directed at Ken, because the line is refering (I assume accurately) to a statement from the developer, not from Ken.

    Again, the developer had TWO proposals for the site. What is the purpose of developing the height-restricted proposal if they're going to cancel the project when conditions favor its use?

  18. Anonymous April 3, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Matt: you don't seem to understand the concept that a consequence can have multiple causes. One cause (among others, perhaps) of the cancellation of the project is the Board's decision. Deal with it, don't deny it.

  19. Saint April 3, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Yeah, I agree with you there Matt, it was the developer that pulled out of the project after all, despite their alternate plan, which must mean their never was an "alternate plan" and they were hoping to create a stir on it.

    But, that doesn't mean these view plane ordinances aren't archaic and need to be revisited. Yes, the developer is being childish, but I do agree with them and would rather see the higher tower design than the Portofino wraparound. Of course, I'd rather see the wraparound than a parking lot, so I hardly hold the developer in high esteem.

  20. Matt Pizzuti April 3, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    "Deal" with it? What does that even mean? What is there for me to "deal" with?

    The developer's decision is NOT a "consequence" of the board's decision, it is a REACTION to it. The word "consequence" indicates the event happens on its own – when you drop a rock, falls to the ground as a consequence. The other scenario is like a burglar telling the owner of a home he broke in to, "as a consequence of you leaving your door unlocked, your TV has now been stolen."

    The statement should have said, "because of the Planning Board didn't make an exception in its height-restricting ordinance for our project, we have decided not to develop the lot." And we should be discussing the developer's decision, not the planning board's decision.

    I would say that the statement is a trivial matter of semantics, except that majority of reactions here go along with the developer's claim that puts culpability solely on the Planning Board. The statement was made in a very political way and it seems to have been effective, here, at least.

  21. Anonymous April 5, 2008 at 1:14 am

    There are obviously a lot of idiots on the planning board, and perhaps the biggest of them all is Joanne Ditmer. She makes the blanket statement, “Pure and simple, anything that requires a variance of the view-plane is probably suspect.” Probably suspect? Suspect of what? Maybe she wants to revive Historic Denver and her cause will be the preservation of the historic surface parking lots. They have been such an asset to the City and bring so much to our urban fabric.

    I honestly can't believe the nonsense. It is beyond comprehension.

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