Colleagues reject councilwoman’s pitch to require supermajority approval of hostile landmark requests

Tom’s Diner is located at 601 E. Colfax Ave. (Thomas Gounley)

A Denver councilwoman’s proposal that would have made it harder for the city to designate a building as a landmark against the owner’s wishes failed to gain traction with her colleagues.

On Tuesday, members of council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted 4-2 to reject a delay proposed by Councilwoman Kendra Black that would have allowed rules to be written to require a supermajority of council members, instead of a simple majority, to approve so-called owner-opposed or hostile landmark requests.

In other words, if all 13 council members were present for a vote, Black proposed requiring that 10 of them support the designation, instead of the seven currently required.

Kendra Black (Denver.gov)

Black said her proposal was prompted by constituents concerned by this summer’s Tom’s Diner saga, which pitted five residents looking to save the building at 601 E. Colfax Ave. against diner owner Tom Messina, who said his retirement plan would be derailed if he couldn’t sell the building for millions to a developer who would demolish it. The residents ultimately withdrew their landmark request last month.

“I think the Tom’s Diner situation really brought to the forefront for typical Denver people that were alarmed or upset that his plans for his property and his future might be undermined by total strangers,” Black said.

Councilman Chris Herndon joined Black in voting for the delay. But the effort failed when committee members Amanda Sandoval, Candi CdeBaca, Paul Kashmann and Jamie Torres voted against it.

The vote came after Councilwoman Robin Kniech spoke against Black’s proposal. Kniech was one of 16 people who served on a city task force that met between October 2017 and this past March, specifically to discuss changes to the city’s landmark designation process.

Kniech noted that the task force, which included preservationists as well as real estate brokers and developers, suggested a number of changes, such as requiring a meeting mediated by a third party in the case of owner-opposed or hostile landmark applications.

Kniech said the task force discussed the possibility of requiring supermajority approval, but did not recommend it because not all task force members supported it.

After Kniech made her remarks Tuesday, Sandoval explained her vote against Black’s proposal by saying, “I have to support the work of the task force.”

Council is still set to consider implementing the other changes proposed by the task force.

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Susan Barnes-Gelt
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Black wanted 10 votes? Check the Charter, Kendra. Nine votes is a super-majority.