Speak out on Boulder’s growth binge

City Council needs to hear from you.

| Sep 1, 2014

From PLAN Boulder County

On Tuesday night, September 2, Boulder City Council will consider several important items that will affect the future of our city, including First Reading of an ordinance to expand occupancy limits in residences for seniors, an agenda item requesting Council approval of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, and a discussion of growth and development under Matters from City Council.

We have taken positions on many of these issues with City Council, but we need members to weigh in by emailing City Council by tomorrow at the latest, or signing up to speak on Tuesday.  ? Following are some points that should be made, but please don’t just forward this list (Council hates form letters). Choose a couple or a few items you feel strongly about and express your concerns in your own words, reflecting your own experience.

  • The current growth binge violates the growth limit established years ago and votes of the citizens to limit growth.
  • Too many exceptions have been made to the growth limits, and the results have not been those intended when the well-intentioned exceptions were made. City Council should suspend the loopholes, except for the permanently affordable housing exception.
  • The height limit was initiated and passed by the citizens, and the many exceptions that have been granted have spiraled out of control. The people of Boulder want to preserve their views of the Flatirons and the small-town ambiance. The height exceptions should be rare and should clearly benefit the city. Council needs to stop these approvals!
  • Realistic growth limits should deal with the growth in the number of jobs, as well as housing. The current 60,000 in-commuters, more or less, inevitably create stress on our transportation infrastructure and put pressure on housing prices and availability. They also reduce the quality of other services for the people who already live here. We cannot expand our open space, parks, and recreation centers without limit. The open space system is largely completed, and heavier use means ecological degradation.
  • The people of Boulder want to retain our small-town atmosphere. They value diversity, but they deliberately chose to live in a city of about 100,000 people. They do not want to see Boulder’s character destroyed by excessive growth or densification.
  • Boulder has a tradition of heavy citizen involvement. We deeply resent attempts by staff, as with the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, to channel and structure “public input” to reach predetermined goals. Council should suspend that process until the public has had a chance to legitimately weigh in. Sham “working groups,” chosen and manipulated by staff are not a public process.
  • We are building too much, too fast, and too ugly! It’s time to put the brakes on and have a community discussion of where we want to go and how we should proceed.
  • Neighborhoods should be able to decide how they want to develop, and what would make them better. They are not labs for experimentation by people who think they have clever ideas.
  • Excessive growth in itself is undesirable. It strains resources, degrades services for current residents, and requires new or upgraded infrastructure. Growth never pays its own way. Developers find ways to shift costs to the citizens at large. Waving a magic density fairy wand does not change all this.
  • Boulder wisely chose to limit its sprawl by purchasing open space around its perimeter as a buffer, so we are limited in the number of people we can house and the number of businesses that can be viable. This was a deliberate choice, and most Boulder residents don’t want to deal with the attendant problems by increasing density to an intolerable level. Instead, we are willing to accept the consequences of those limits.
  • How does the addition of many more hotels and “Class-A” office space contribute to the quality of life in Boulder? Many of the advocates of more density to provide housing choice have supported these additions while spuriously claiming that they help to achieve “15-minute neighborhoods.”

Everyone has her or his own view of these issues, but it is important to communicate yours to Council and to let members of Council know that you want the discussion about growth to be a community discussion, not something we want to turn over to staff. We’re willing to take the time necessary. Rushing these decisions is neither wise nor desirable.

We have taken positions on many of these issues with City Council, but we need members to weigh in by signing up to speak on Tuesday.

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