Planning Board: Boulder should reject higher-density proposal
Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), 2014-08-08
Aug. 08 -- The Boulder Planning Board recommended Thursday night that the City Council reject an ordinance that would allow higher-density developments in certain sections of the city.
The proposed ordinance would have allowed developers to calculate density before setting aside land on their properties that would go to roads. That way, they'd be able to eke more units out of the same square footage.
By going off of properties' gross land area to determine the number of dwelling units, developers in some cases would be able to squeeze between 25 and 30 percent more total units.
The 4-2 vote came despite heavy endorsement from city planners and roughly half of the more than 20 people who spoke during Thursday's public participation segment. It was also a reversal of a vote the Planning Board itself made May 1 , when it approved the ordinance.
The board members and public commenters who opposed the plan agreed that no compelling case has yet been made to suggest a specific problem the ordinance could solve.
"I see this proposal as a hoax," said Dick Harris , of south Boulder . "The terminology has been changed so the citizens won't know this is simply a density increase. I'm shocked that our staff would participate in such a disingenuous discussion.
"The continuing mantra of developers remains," Harris added. "'Just give me more density or I won't be able to do anything here.'"
Martin Acres resident Lois LaCroix condemned the city for what she sees as a willingness to approve anything including certain density-related "buzz words."
"I just get tired of all this density," she said. "You may be very proud of Boulder Junction; I think it's disgusting. You may be very proud of north Boulder ; I cant believe it when I go there."
Some criticized the board for not soliciting enough public input.
Board member Crystal Gray said there was "a real lack of public process."
"I asked to have neighborhoods notified on this," she said. "We used to do it. It used to be pretty easy. But we don't do it anymore, and it bothers me.
"There's a lot of common goals that people have, and I think that by bringing people to the table, you're going to get there."
But the evening's discussion featured plenty of commentary in favor of the ordinance. One of the key arguments to that end was that it would have encouraged smaller, more affordable units in a city presently strapped for them.
Others in favor of the ordinance voiced the opinion that it makes basic planning sense given the city's directions.
"You need a certain intensity of activity if you're going to support transit, retail and neighborhood walkability," board member John Putnam said.
Several said higher density would allow the city to grow more responsibly, promoting better-conceived, more intelligently devised projects.
"The alternative is sprawl; the alternative is more driving," said Gary Sprung , of north Boulder .
Added north Boulder's Carolyn Hales : "We could have some more density. I think there's families that would like to live in a townhome where they don't have to mow the lawn and could spend more time hiking the trails."
After the meeting, board Chairman Aaron Brockett said he's hopeful some compromise on targeted density increases could emerge down the road should the City Council -- which has not yet set a date for a hearing on the ordinance -- also vote to reject it.
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