The Denver City Council on Monday approved on a 9-3 vote a rezoning proposal that proponents said would pave the way for affordable housing in Cherry Creek East.

The two affected properties are near Gates Tennis Center at 3400 E. Bayaud Ave. and 121 S. Madison St., both owned by Travis McAfoos. 

The approvals came despite area residents' protests and concerns from some councilmembers. 

Jonathan Pira, who lives in District 3, spoke in support of rezoning, citing the focus on affordable housing, the great location in the Cherry Creek East neighborhood and the access it provides to services and amenities.

"I believe this is our first opportunity to act on the inclusionary zoning ordinance," Pira said. "At least 15 families can live in this high opportunity area who may not otherwise be able to afford it."

The city council had passed Denver's Expanding Housing Affordability Ordinance on July 21. 

McAfoos, the properties' owner, said his goal is to allocate 10% of the newly developed property for affordable housing.

"Affordable" would mean housing that is available to those who make 60% of the area's mean income.

"It's really exciting to see this new policy in action," Pira said.

Critics said the proposed rezoning lacks of compliance with the Cherry Creek East area plan and Blueprint Denver 2040.

"Outside of adding density for the sake of density, what does this bring?" Denise Oakland said.

"A five story high rise will have a profound and irreversible impact on this neighborhood's character," Alex Nelson, an area property owner, added via Zoom.

Councilman Chris Hinds, who represents District 10, where the properties are located, voted "yes," saying the potential for adding affordable housing to the area swayed him. 

"There could be a teacher who could live near Broadway, a nurse who lives near Rose (Medical Center) or a firefighter near their station," he said. "I want to make sure that we have foresight and create something with this decision that positively affects the neighborhood for decades to come."

Eight other councilmembers joined Hinds in backing the proposal. Three councilmembers balked at the plan.

Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer of District 5 voiced concerns over the confusion surrounding how many stories could officially be authorized. 

"The height map is a major concern of residents," she said. "Adopting this rezoning would not be fair to residents, who are already concerned about (building) height. And there may be two more stories if affordability is maintained." 

No development plan has been filed with the city, but McAfoos said he has been planning on what to do with the property since 2020 after owning it for more than eight years. 

"We do have a lot of residents tonight who expressed a desire to live in neighborhoods that they might otherwise not be able to afford," he said. "Affordability was always the plan for this project that we envisioned years ago." 

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