Englewood Council Begrudgingly Passes Overlay Zones to Boost Affordable Housing

The Englewood City Council reconvened recently, delving deeper into the city’s affordable housing challenges, building upon the discussions from July’s session. As the city grapples with its constitutional obligation to provide affordable housing to address economic disparities, the council is faced with the task of reconciling these obligations with the concerns of its residents.

John Sabo, a licensed professional planner, addressed the city’s new overlay zones and their 4,000 potential housing units, a number that has been a focal point of debate. Sabo emphasized that this number was a “gross overestimation,” but his clarification only seemed to fan the flames of an already heated discussion among residents.

Echoing concerns from the July meeting, residents continued to express apprehensions about the overlay zone’s potential implications. Catherine Sava passionately spoke about the potential erosion of the city’s culture due to unchecked development. Former mayor Frank Huddle III, present at the meeting, criticized the council for not providing written studies to support claims. He emphasized the need for transparency and public involvement in the decision-making process, stating, “this is not democracy.”

Mayor Wildes expressed his frustration over not receiving a legal brief he had requested and threatening to veto the council if they voted for the overlay zones.

Councilmember Charles Cobb then took the floor, adding a sense of gravity to the proceedings. “I’m not happy about what we got to do,” he admitted, “but I can tell you this, if we don’t do this, you think development is going rapid around here before? It will go, and it will happen. There are people waiting to build in… what we should have been doing was managing that and getting affordable housing… so we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.”

Cobb continued, “we have to make a tough decision tonight. We have to make a tough decision, and sometimes tough decisions are not the popular decision, but it’s the right decision, and that’s what happens.”

The night culminated in a vote on the overlay zones, which passed 4-1. Councilman Kevin Wilson was the sole dissenting voice.

The meeting highlighted the difficult realities of expanding the housing supply to bring the cost of living down for everyone. It also highlighted a deep-seated mistrust between the residents and the council, with many calling for more transparency, communication, and consideration of the community’s needs.

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