Landmark Land Use Bill Fails in Colorado Legislature

Colorado Governor Jared Polis’s effort to allow for more housing construction by preempting local control of zoning failed to achieve the required level of political support in the state legislature.

2 minute read

May 11, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Colorado State Capitol Building

Nicholas Courtney / Shutterstock

SB 213, which would have preempted local control of zoning in communities all over the state of Colorado, has failed after failing to reach a consensus between competing versions in the state’s House and Senate.

The zoning reform movement has shifted to the Mountain Time Zone in 2023, with Colorado considering SB 213 almost simultaneously with the Montana Legislature’s approval of its own state preemption of single-family zoning. Where Montana succeeded by appealing to Anti-California bias, Colorado’s effort, championed by Gov. Jared Polis, faced widespread opposition at the local level.

The failure of SB 213 prompted a wave of media coverage after weeks of attention to the political back and forth over housing affordability, local control of land use regulations, and property rights in the Centennial State.

Planetizen shared news in in April that state senators had gutted the bill’s mandate to rescind single-family zoning in many of the cities in the state. The Colorado House of Representative earlier this month seemed to get the governor’s efforts to achieve statewide zoning reform back on track, however, by reinstating density requirements in the bill earlier this month.

The comeback was short-lived, however. According to an article by Nick Coltrain, the bill split Democratic legislators. “The bill started out as a mandate that cities and towns zone for greater residential density before it was pared back in the Senate to a task force. The measure was then partially resurrected in the House to increase the number of multifamily homes around bus and train stops in Colorado’s large cities,” explain Jesse Paul and Elliott Wenzer in a separate article for the Colorado Sun.

“The Colorado state legislature will hand Gov. Jared Polis a significant defeat on the final day of the legislative session, refusing to pass his landmark proposal to overhaul Colorado’s rules for housing development,” reports Andrew Kenney in the source article, linked below.

The hopes of statewide zoning in Colorado are not entirely dead, however. California’s efforts to accomplish similar reforms required numerous legislative sessions over the course of more than a decade to achieve a similar measure of success.

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