Wheat Ridge Council Reins In Big Backyard Play Equipment

By a 5-3 vote on Sept. 27, Wheat Ridge City Council passed an ordinance regulating large, permanent backyard recreation equipment, setting up a showdown between neighbors and the owner of a backyard skateboard park.

Wheat Ridge has few regulations related to outdoor recreational equipment, but resident complaints about what a city memo called a “homemade half-pipe that exceeds 1,000 square feet in size in a residential backyard” resulted in council considering changes at its June 7 and Aug. 9 study sessions, and orders to the Planning Commission to draft a proposed amendment to the municipal code.

Under the new code, any permanent recreational equipment or structure greater than 120 square feet cannot exceed 400 square feet in footprint or 12 feet in height, and must be set back a minimum of five feet from the property’s sides and back, in addition to the proper front setback for the zoning district it is in. All existing equipment or structures will have to be brought into compliance by April 15, 2022, although homeowners can apply for a variance.

Nearly all public comment was made at the Planning Commission’s Sept. 2 meeting.

Kathleen and Peter Baccarini of Lakewood, who own a rental property at 10745 W. 35th Ave., next to the problematic playground, testified that their tenants “abruptly moved” due to noise and lack of privacy, and that the proposed 12-foot height limit was too low.

Enzo Perri, 10750 W. 35th Ave., told the commission that the skate noise was constant and the property owner “very aggressive and unapproachable.”

District 3 councilor Amanda Weaver brought the testimony of three anonymous residents into the record – loss of privacy and excessive noise from skateboards and the adult riders were their concerns.

The sole opposing testimony came from Jason Funk, 7 Morningside Drive. He wrote in Wheat Ridge Speaks that a small batting cage would exceed the 400-square-foot limit, and proposed that Denver’s limits of 1,000 square feet or 10 percent of lot size would be more tenable.

The halfpipe owner did not testify. The commission voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance without changes.

At the final Sept. 27 reading before council, Kathleen Baccarini was the sole citizen to testify. “Please regulate this … it only takes one person to ruin the peace and quiet and living of so many other people.”

Councilors Janeece Hoppe of District 1, and Valerie Nosler-Beck and Leah Dozeman of District 4 thanked staff and neighbors for their effort, but voted against the bill because they believed the legislation targeted one problem with one property owner, creating a bad precedent.

Of those voting for the ordinance, Weaver stated that the activity on the one property affected 25-50 homes. District 2 councilor Zachary Urban said if it were about one property, he would have voted against it, but the property was an example of why the ordinance was needed.

The new ordinance will take effect Oct. 15.

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