Colorado Land Use Bill: This Land is Whose Land? 

April 28, 2023

By Katie Winner, For The Win Communications, Ltd. and the Arvada Chamber Advocacy KAPS Council

“Respectfully, get off our lawn.”

That was the quote from Colorado Municipal League (CML) executive director Kevin Bommer to the package of housing bills from Governor Jared Polis introduced as the ‘More Housing Now’ plan. Bommer was specifically commenting on SB 23-213, otherwise known as the Land Use bill. The bill has been at the center of ongoing negotiations and plenty of amendments since being introduced at the state legislature just over a month ago. 

The Arvada Chamber of Commerce, and the Jefferson County Business Lobby, have been following the developments of 213 closely as the proposed legislation would have a major impact on housing development and land use not just in the City of Arvada, but throughout Jefferson County, and across the state. 

From the Governor’s Desk

In the January 2023 State of the State address, the Governor made clear he wanted to address Colorado’s housing crisis, and specifically mentioned changes to land use. “We need to bring our land use policy into the 21st century and prepare ourselves for success,” Polis said. “We need more housing now. It’s simple supply and demand.”

In March 2023, Polis unveiled More Housing Now, stating the plan would “create ways for the state to work with local leaders to develop strategies that meet the needs of their communities by incentivizing smart and efficient buildings, allowing more affordable types of homes to be built.”  

The Opponents

Opposition to 213 as introduced was swift. The Colorado Municipal League (CML) put up a webpage with information calling the legislation “the most sweeping attempt in recent Colorado history to remove local control and home rule authority from elected leaders, professional planning staff, and the people of Colorado.” The site also includes a listing of municipalities who have taken a position to “oppose or seek major amendments” to 213. 

The City of Arvada is among the cities and towns listed as opposing the measure. Arvada Mayor Marc Williams spoke openly about his opposition to the bill during the State of the City address on April 21, and was a part of the consensus oppose letter issued by the Metro Mayors Caucus. Arvada Senator Rachel Zenzinger, publicly a no-vote on the bill, issued an op-ed with Brighton Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer on April 23 saying there could be a path forward for the bill if it was “amended to eliminate state control of local land use planning” and instead focused on helping local governments achieve long-term goals. 

The Proponents

Not all mayors oppose 213. Boulder Mayor Adam Brockett told Colorado Politics he was the sole opposing vote on the Metro Mayors Caucus letter, and is among the vocal supporters of 213. Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, a prime sponsor of the bill, defended 213 in an op-ed as a “proposal to remove local restrictions on homebuilding” with the goal to make housing more affordable across Colorado. “The solutions we’re proposing focus on eliminating restrictions so we can build more homes that people can afford, quickly,” says Moreno. 

Co-sponsor Representative Steven Woodrow points out that the legislation would remove barriers to more diverse housing, such as Accessory Dwelling Units, known as ADUs. “By allowing property owners to build ADUs and other more affordable homes, we will substantially increase our housing stock, create jobs, improve our air and lower costs for families,” Woodrow states.

Make Haste to May 6th

On Wednesday, April 26, a 39-page strike below amendment was presented by Senate Majority Leader Moreno to the Senate Appropriations committee and Vice Chair Rachel Zenzinger. The amendment removed residential zoning requirements on municipalities, the most hotly contested portion of the bill. 

In a quote to the Colorado Sun, Moreno hinted that the reasoning for the change was to move the bill through the process this session. “All legislation in this building (depends on) whether or not you have the support to move on to the next step,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat and a lead sponsor of the bill. “Senate Bill 213, in its current form, didn’t have that support.”

With the proposed strike below amendment approved on a 4-3 party-line vote, 213 left the Senate Appropriations committee and headed to the Senate floor where on Thursday, April 27 it received 13 more amendments. 

In its current amended form the bill would*:

  • Retain local control of zoning regulations. 
  • Keep the Department of Local Affairs as a resource and partner to local governments, instead of a regulatory agency.
  • Prevent municipalities from imposing occupancy limits based on familial status.
  • Outline growth objectives at the statewide, regional and local levels, including linking housing, transportation and land use planning, as well as protecting water resources.
  • Define and address displacement strategies and also provide a definition of affordability. 
  • The creation of both a legislative oversight committee and task force on affordable housing and homelessness to provide reports on housing issues.
  • Require both the state water plan and basin implementation plans to be taken into consideration on water supply forecasts.
  • Creation of a 14-member multi-agency committee that would develop recommendations on housing.
  • Convene a statewide housing summit to discuss efforts for affordable housing, land use and water resources, among other key issues

(*Summation from information found on Colorado Sun and Colorado Politics) 

As of the writing of this article, SB 23-213 was scheduled for a final vote in the Senate on Friday, April 28 before heading back over to the House. While the Governor has not made a formal statement about the state of the bill to date, he did provide comments to Colorado Public Radio that he is “committed to making progress” on affordable housing. 

With mere days before the end of the legislative session, the finish line is in sight for 213, but in what shape is yet to be determined. Your Jefferson County Business Lobby, and Arvada Chamber, will be reporting to you updates and information about this bill and others. But in case you miss it, register to attend the May 19th Legislative Recap for a full session summary with our Jefferson County and Arvada elected officials. 


Related Articles

B.O.L.D. 2026 | May 2024 Update

B.O.L.D. 2026 | May 2024 Update

B.O.L.D. 2026 is a five-year regional economic strength and resiliency initiative of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber developed BOLD 2026 in consultation with private and public sector leaders and partners in Arvada, Jefferson / Adams Counties, Metro...

read more

Subscribe to receive Arvada Chamber news, resources, and events!