City Government

Overview of City Government

Lakewood is a home rule city which means it has powers that non-home rule cities do not. While it is still subject to most state rules, the home rule status means that it can make its own rules in some areas. Lakewood is considered a city manager form of municipal government as opposed to a mayor-council form of government - the best example being Denver. This means that an appointed city manager (Kathy Hodgson) is the chief executive officer who actually runs city operations. The manager hires and fires all employees except the city attorney who is hired/fired directly by the City Council. The mayor does NOT have the power to hire/fire/direct any city employees including the city manager and city attorney. The City Council consists of ten members (two from each of the city's five wards). These members serve for a four-year term of office. They can serve two consecutive terms before being term-limited. There is a municipal election every two years on odd numbered years (not during general elections which are even-numbered years). One member from each ward is elected during each election cycle. This means that every two years, one of the two Council members from each ward is up for election. This results in a staggered effect where half the council is up for election every two years while the other half remains unaffected. The only official duties of the mayor is to chair the council meetings and be the ceremonial representative. This means the mayor individually does not have the power to hire/fire/direct any city employees including the city manager and city attorney. The mayor is also an at-large City Council member with the power to vote on all matters (not limited to breaking ties). Therefore, every Council action requires eleven votes (two from each of five wards and the mayor). The mayor does NOT have the power to veto any measure. All City Council actions require a majority vote of at least six members. This minimum requirement is the same regardless of the number of council members present. A quorum of six members is needed to conduct business. A super-majority of nine members can be required in special occasions (legal protest to a re-zoning, censure of a council member, etc.). The Council has the power to: 1.) hire/fire both the city manager and city attorney (but no other employees) and 2.) pass laws (ordinances or resolutions), 3.) appropriate money (pass budgets), and 4.) place issues on the ballot for election by the people. There are a number of Council committees that are delegated to examine specific areas of municipal governance and advise the whole Council. These include budget, legislative liaison with the state, and a selection committee to interview candidates for city boards and commissions. These committee member are appointed by the mayor and ratified by the whole Council.

Overview of Zoning Rules

Zoning is a set of rules that establish what land uses are permitted (or not permitted) for a specified piece of property.

A general rule that is often over-looked in re-zoning cases is that the rules DO NOT specific: (1) whether the users are owners or renters, (2) what type of people will be using the property, i.e. seniors, families, etc. or (3) what the property will eventually look like.  Usually when owners/developers approach the city for a change they present a "plan" (often with pretty pictures and maps) showing their proposed vision for the property.

However zoning rules generally only list general rules and uses for the property.  For example, if the rules allow for residential dwelling units, it would permit owner-occuptees or renters.  If it includes pretty pictures and drawings, the zoning rules allow for anything that meets the "letter of the law".

Lakewood's zoning codes divides the city into dozens of specific zones, each with their own rules.  In general terms each zone category is defined by three elements: (1) board category - Residential, Commercial and Mixed-Use, (2) general type of activity - employment, transit  and (3) density type - urban, suburban and

Each zone category has general guidelines and then an accompanying list of specific uses that are permitted.  This list of permitted uses is generally pretty broad and liberal.  Any specified use may be at odds with the general vision of the zone.

An example of this is Mixed-Use (M) zones.  The general guidelines call for a mixtures of different uses that complement each other.  The perfect example is a property with commercial retail units on the ground floor, offices on the second floor and residences on the upper floors.

However, the M category zones list a wide range of permitted uses including an unlimited number of residential units.  The current code has been misused to permit the entire project to be ,