Denver Initiated Ordinance 307: Sidewalk repair fees passing narrowly in early results

Voters on Tuesday were endorsing the city taking over responsibility for building out and maintaining Denver’s hodgepodge sidewalk network, according to unofficial election night results.

In updated results released at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was passing with 52.6% of the vote compared to 47.4% of votes against it. With just over 107,000 ballots counted, 307 was leading 56,478 votes to 50,844, according to the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office. That total represents fewer than 25% of all registered voters in the city so results could still change in the days ahead.

Denver Initiated Ordinance 307 asked voters to approve a fee program that would charge homeowners and commercial property owners various amounts per year to fund sidewalk work citywide. Sidewalk repair and installation in Denver today is the responsibility of the property owner.

The annual fees — essentially an additional property tax — would vary widely for property owners. They would be calculated based on how many linear feet of sidewalks run alongside each property and the width of those sidewalks based on the type of street they faced.

Proponents argued that Denver’s current system is unsustainable. City-led inspections take far too long to ensure that property owners are repairing or installing sidewalks, leading to an inequitable system where 830 miles of the city’s 2,300-mile sidewalk network are too narrow for people using wheelchairs or parents pushing strollers and another 300 miles of Denver streets don’t have any sidewalks alongside them.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Denver Deserves Sidewalks campaign leader Jill Locantore said on Tuesday night. “We’re definitely pleased that initial results were in our favor and we know that early results tend to skew toward older voters and that younger voters are more likely to support our initiative. So that all gives us hope.”

Opponents argued the fees were too high for some properties and would be burdensome for seniors and others living on fixed incomes. The measure includes a 20% discount for people living in neighborhoods known to be vulnerable to gentrification but that would not address vulnerable populations citywide. Property owners would also have the option to defer payments until they sell their property.

The city’s analysis of the measure and the revenue it would raise — roughly $40 million a year over its first five years and going up to $45.4 million in Years 5-9 — found that it would take 27.5 years to complete an overhaul of the Denver sidewalk network. That’s far longer than the nine years proponents of the measure were touting but still much faster than the current pace of work.

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