Category Archives: Letters to the Editor

“Neighborhoods’ Right To Vote” is an exercise of the citizens’ powers as enshrined in the Colorado Constitution

“Neighborhoods’ Right To Vote” is an exercise of the citizens’ powers as enshrined in the Colorado Constitution

In a recent Camera guest opinion (Sunday, 8/30/15) Dave Abelson selectively quoted the language from one sentence in the Colorado constitution to argue that the “Neighborhoods’ Right To Vote” initiative likely violates the constitution. But the very next sentence in that constitutional section (which Abelson failed to reference) points out the fallacy of his argument, and shows that, in fact, the constitution supports the rights of citizens to set the rules for referendum processes, such as those allowed by this initiative.

Also, the Boulder City Attorneys Office has reviewed this initiative at least twice, once before it was circulated, and again just last week. And the CAO found no such legal barriers. Here’s a link to the CAO implementation memo.

Here’s the full text of Article V, Section 1(9), the one that Abelson referenced. Note the underlined part:

 “The initiative and referendum powers reserved to the people by this section are hereby further reserved to the registered electors of every city, town, and municipality as to all local, special, and municipal legislation of every character in or for their respective municipalities. The manner of exercising said powers shall be prescribed by general laws; except that cities, towns, and municipalities may provide for the manner of exercising the initiative and referendum powers as to their municipal legislation. Not more than ten percent of the registered electors may be required to order the referendum, nor more than fifteen percent to propose any measure by the initiative in any city, town, or municipality.”

What the Colorado constitution describes is exactly what would happen if the citizens of Boulder choose to pass the Neighborhood’s Right to Vote charter amendment in the upcoming city election in November.

The citizens would be “provid(ing) for the manner of exercising the…referendum powers as to their municipal legislation” by granting referendum power to a subset of their citizens (a neighborhood) to refer certain council-passed land use regulation changes (“their municipal legislation”) to a vote of that neighborhood, with that vote only applying to the implementation of such changes in that neighborhood.

It is generally agreed that local land use regulations are one of the fundamental forms of “municipal legislation”. The state constitution, in Article XX, Sec. 9 and the linked statute CRS 31-2-210, endorses the citizen initiative process as a legitimate way to set or amend a city’s charter rules for how the city operates, with one of those rules “provid(ing)” for the exercise of referendum powers on municipal legislation.” And the Boulder city charter in Section 137 specifically states that the state constitution defines how the City charter may be amended.

*Some Case Law  off of Lexis/Nexus’s version of the Section on initiatives that Dave Abelson referenced…

ALL POWER HAS BEEN RESERVED BY PEOPLE THROUGH INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM. In re Legislative Reapportionment, 150 Colo. 380, 374 P.2d 66 (1962).

Under the Colorado Constitution, all political power is vested in the people and derives from them, and an aspect of that power is the initiative, which is the power reserved by the people to themselves to propose laws by petition and to enact or reject them at the polls independent of the legislative assembly. Colo. Project-Common Cause v. Anderson, 178 Colo. 1, 495 P.2d 220 (1972).

PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO LEGISLATE RESERVED. By this section, the people have reserved for themselves the right to legislate. McKee v. City of Louisville, 200 Colo. 525, 616 P.2d 969 (1980).

POWER OF INITIATIVE IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. McKee v. City of Louisville, 200 Colo. 525, 616 P.2d 969 (1980).

PURPOSE OF INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM embodied in the constitution is to expeditiously permit the free exercise of legislative powers by the people, and the procedural statutes enacted in connection therewith were adopted to facilitate the execution of the law. Brownlow v. Wunsch, 103 Colo. 120, 83 P.2d 775 (1938).

The power to call referendum and initiative elections is a direct check on the exercise or nonexercise of legislative power by elected officials. Margolis v. District Court, 638 P.2d 297 (Colo. 1981).

PROVISIONS FOR INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM ENTITLED TO LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION. It has generally been held by the courts of all jurisdictions that a constitutional provision for the initiative and referendum, and statutes enacted in connection therewith, should be liberally construed. Brownlow v. Wunsch, 103 Colo. 120, 83 P.2d 775 (1938); Baker v. Bosworth, 122 Colo. 356, 222 P.2d 416 (1950).

Initiative and referendum are fundamental rights of a republican form of government which the people have reserved unto themselves and must be liberally construed in favor of the right of the people to exercise them. Conversely, limitations on the power of referendum must be strictly construed. Margolis v. District Court, 638 P.2d 297 (Colo. 1981).

RIGHT OF INITIATIVE PERTAINS TO ANY MEASURE, WHETHER CONSTITUTIONAL OR LEGISLATIVE, and, in the case of municipalities, it encompasses legislation of every character. McKee v. City of Louisville, 200 Colo. 525, 616 P.2d 969 (1980).

This section, as well as the statutes which implement it, must be liberally construed so as not to unduly limit or curtail the exercise of the initiative and referendum rights constitutionally reserved to the people. Colo. Project-Common Cause v. Anderson, 178 Colo. 1, 495 P.2d 220 (1972); Billings v. Buchanan, 192 Colo. 32, 555 P.2d 176 (1976).

Protecting our neighborhoods – Jan Trussell

Jan Trussell: Protecting our neighborhoods

Boulder does not have a good record for protecting neighborhoods. Our city staff and elected officials have not served us well in this regard. This has led to many battles that we should have never had to fight.

Some years ago, neighbors near the former Washington School had to do the impossible — gather petitions with signatures of 10 percent of all registered Boulder voters to try to stop the project on that site, which was so inappropriate that the council had to in effect “spot zone” the land, arguably illegally, to let it proceed.

Before that, there was the furor over building high-rise apartments along South Lashley Lane, on the east side of south Broadway. This went forward with the support of the council and staff until a huge protest was staged in the NIST auditorium.

More recently, there was a battle over the potential annexation of the Hogan Pancost property near East Boulder Community Center. City staff supported this foolish project in a flood-prone area with high ground water. The neighbors’ efforts to explain the problems fell on deaf ears until the planning board unanimously turned the project down. Council could have shut this down at any time by designating the land as not annex-able under the Boulder Comprehensive Plan, but so far the land remains in limbo.

The Baseline Zero project, a massive office park and hotel, was proposed in Martin Acres on land zoned for neighborhood-benefiting retail and services. It would have buried the neighborhood in traffic, parking, height, and potential flood impact (being fully located in the neighborhood’s 100-year floodplain). That neighborhood had to fight this tooth and nail to even get it put on hold and it’s likely to be back when the city lifts its temporary height cap. City staff should have never let this project start forward and council should have stopped it.

The final straw was the city’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy, now called “Housing Boulder,” whose staff-generated goals were approved by council. These goals called for wholesale densification of essentially all neighborhoods in Boulder. There was never any scientific polling of all citizens to see if that’s what they want. There was never any consideration of what this might mean for property values, or for the quality of life and what’s really galling, there was never any real analysis as to whether the identified outcomes would achieve much of lasting value. Finally, according to some citizens who are involved in this project, the process is so flawed, it’s a waste of time.

So now citizens are fighting back. There is an initiative, “Neighbors’ Right to Vote,” that, assuming enough people sign the petitions, will be on the ballot this fall. This would empower a neighborhood that is subject to up-zoning, or changes in city land use regulations that would increase the density or intensity of development, to refer those measures to the voters in the neighborhood by gathering signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in the neighborhood. (This is not easy, but it’s easier than what the Washington School folks went through; they had to gather signatures from 10 percent of all Boulder voters.) If the majority of a neighborhood votes “No,” then these changes in regulations would not apply to that specific neighborhood.

Contrary to a letter to the editor published April 29, this initiative does not give the neighbors power to turn down a project that is legal under the current zoning. And it certainly doesn’t give 10 percent of the voters the power to do anything but put the up-zoning or regulation change to a vote of all the neighborhood residents.

What is quite insulting is that some current and former council members are now saying that the same Boulder neighborhood people whose votes they courted last election are selfish and mean-spirited. I suggest people look at a map, so they can see that almost all Boulder neighborhoods are diverse.

And perhaps more to the point, if city council and staff made the effort to reach out and talk to the real neighborhoods rather than doing Internet surveys that automatically favor one demographic, they might learn that Boulderites are quite happy to absorb some change. They just don’t want to have it jammed down their throats by some planner who has just moved here, or by city council members that are more interested in nice-sounding generalities rather than the on-the-ground realities.

Jan Trussell lives in Boulder.

The Comp Plan is not the answer to growth issues by Jeffrey Flynn

The Comp Plan is not the answer to growth issues by Jeffrey Flynn

When asked about the issues of growth and density in Boulder, city council members often respond by saying they are dealing with these issues in the update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan). But the Comp Plan has, for the most part, become meaningless. For example, Bob Greenlee in a recent column pointed out that the city’s goal that new development pay its own way has been “entombed” in the Comp Plan for some 45 years. The reason this goal has been “entombed” in the Comp Plan, never achieving the effect of law, personifies the fact that the Comp Plan is only a policy document. Council can pick and choose from it as they please, which they have been doing for decades.

At a recent city council meeting involving a moratorium on height exemptions, one council member said council could pass an ordinance prohibiting exemptions for a specific area and, if we don’t like it in the future, we can just repeal it. It was astounding to hear the cavalier manner in which the repealing of an ordinance was discussed.

Only one way exists to achieve permanence in city government and that is to change the city charter. Livable Boulder is the genesis of two charter amendments that do just that. One amendment, “Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote,” allows residential neighborhoods to vote after land-use regulation changes are enacted for that neighborhood and 10 percent of the registered voters in that neighborhood contest those changes. I would like to repeat that because many people have mischaracterized this charter amendment. It is only after land-use regulation changes are enacted for a residential neighborhood that 10 percent of the registered voters in that neighborhood can force a vote for approval. An example of such a change would be the upzoning of a single family neighborhood to allow multifamily units. If a developer builds within the current land-use regulations, whether “by right” or through a variance or special review, then no vote can occur. If a land-use regulation change occurs across numerous neighborhoods, it could be rejected in one or more neighborhoods and accepted in one or more neighborhoods. A single neighborhood has a say only in its neighborhood, not other neighborhoods. And this amendment does not affect commercial development.

Council members have claimed that neighborhoods will not allow any changes that they deem might benefit the city as a whole. They have cast us as selfish and unwelcoming. Maybe council members should ask themselves why they have lost the trust of their citizens. The answer might be found in Aspen. Aspen just stripped its city council of the power to alter building height and parking requirements without a vote of the citizens. Aspen’s citizens obviously were tired of their city council granting changes that alter the very character of their city. People in Boulder are starting to feel the same way. And no, it is not a “gated community” amendment as some have called it. It is a reasonable approach that demands that the city cooperate with neighborhoods before they make land-use regulation changes that affect them. What is wrong with that?

In his article, Mr. Greenlee did not ask why the city never enacted into the law its goal that growth pay its way in that Comp Plan of some 45 years ago. Maybe now is the time to ask that question. Council is currently enacting an ordinance on linkage fees, which create much-needed funds for affordable housing. The linkage fees, however, do not address traffic, stress on services such as fire and police, and other impacts. The second charter amendment, “Development Shall Pays Its Way,” forces development to pay for these impacts, rather than having taxpayers pay for them. The city recently hired a national consultant to discuss impact fees. At a meeting with citizens, the consultant stated he has never experienced development not taking place because of impact fees. In fact, in a question asked by me, he said the exact opposite is the case.

If the citizens of Boulder do not want these two charter amendments, then they will reject them at the ballot. But even if this happens, the citizens will have weighed in on development issues and Boulder’s future. Let’s get these amendments on the ballot and let the citizens vote. Then our city government will know where we stand. It’s the right thing to do.

Jeffrey Flynn lives in Boulder.


Editor’s Note:  This 1600 word history of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is part of an unpublished history of PLAN-Boulder County written by then Board member Eric Karnes in 2009.

The Danish Plan and the open space program were only two parts of a more comprehensive attempt to control and manage development in Boulder. These efforts built on a tradition that was slowly evolving toward better planning.

In 1956 the City of Boulder prepared a Guide for Growth, culminating three years of public involvement and staff work. The guide was developed by an ad hoc body known as the Boulder Regional Planning Board, made up of representatives from the City Planning Board, the Boulder County Planning Commission and a school advisory committee. Several future members of PLAN-Boulder County were intimately involved in the guide process.

After a series of public meetings the Guide for Growth was adopted by both the City of Boulder and Boulder County in 1958. For the first time a planning document was adopted that required development approvals, if often cursory, by local governing bodies. In 1962 with PLAN-Boulder’s support, the Boulder County Commissioners approved a study of suburban zoning outside the county’s municipalities.

As mentioned previously, building upon the Guide for Growth local governments (mainly the City of Boulder) began to consider means of planning for the longer term. In July of 1965 voters rejected a concept known as “spokes of the wheel” which meant to direct growth by use of utility extensions.

In 1967 the first move towards a more unified planning process was made through the consideration of a Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. The first comprehensive plan, only one page initially, was adopted by City and County governments in 1970 after a long series of public meetings. The Comprehensive Plan included a number of topics that would become familiar issues in the future, including affordable housing, increasing residential densities and studying alternatives to cars.

One of the earliest threats to growth management in Boulder County occurred in 1971 when the Denver Water Board sought to extend water lines into southeastern Boulder County. This effort was designed to encourage development in the Broomfield area. PLAN-Boulder County and a number of community organizations, including People United to Reclaim the Environment (PURE) worked to stop the extension.

With the adoption of the original comprehensive plan public interest in limiting growth and not just managing it began to come to the fore. A failed effort in 1971 by Zero Population Growth to limit the city’s ultimate size to 100,000 was rejected by voters but the level of support (about 40%), and the defeat of four of five incumbent City Council members, encouraged local governmental leaders to scale back the population projections to a growth rate “substantially below that experienced in the 1960s.” PLAN-Boulder County was one of the community organizations supporting measures to slow the rate of population growth, although it did not support the ZPG initiative.

During the balance of the 1970s growth remained a frequent topic of debate. Several studies about growth were conducted, including a Boulder Area Growth Study which was completed in 1973. Action by the Colorado State Legislature also tightened some planning requirements and encouraged better cooperation between county and municipal governments.

In 1975 Boulder County commissioners created a County Comprehensive Plan Review Team. After some dissention between City and County officials the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, originally adopted by both governments in 1970, was brought up for renewal and reconsideration in 1975. The plan was readopted by both bodies in 1978 after strong involvement by representatives of PLAN-Boulder County and included, for the first time, classifications of areas under three categories. Under the new concept, Area I was land within the City of Boulder, Area II land adjacent and suitable for future annexation and Area III land not intended for annexation for at least fifteen years. In 1990 the Comprehensive Plan update designated most of Area III as a Rural Preservation Area that would not be developed in an urban character.

Even with the adoption of the comprehensive plan there would be periodic attempts to chip away at its growth management requirements. In 1983 Boulder County Commissioners approved a policy, initially known as the Large Scale Industrial Concept, and later renamed the “performance industrial concept” to allow industrial development outside Boulder’s urban boundary. Although approved no major projects occurred, including the ill-fated attempt by NDI, Inc. to build a facility near Sixmile Reservoir.

In fact, with a change in the composition of the Boulder County Commission, attention to planning became more of a regional interest. Just two years after the “performance industrial concept” debate the County initiated a plan to bring zoning in the unincorporated areas into compliance with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

About 38,000 acres of land was ultimately downzoned, with strong support from PLAN-Boulder County and an endorsement by the Boulder City Council. The downzoning was not without controversy, with opposition from real estate interests, some property owners and conservative political groups. A rally in Niwot in support of the plan was even disrupted by organized “property rights” activists. After the County Commission implemented the changes a recall effort was initiated against two of the commissioners but it was unable to generate enough signatures on the required petition to even make it to the ballot.

During the 2000 update process for the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan a statement from PLAN-Boulder County stressed several major topics for consideration:

  • Incorporation of affordable housing goals.
  • Allowing higher residential densities in appropriate areas to help justify transit.
  • Requiring affordable housing in mixed-use redevelopment of existing commercial centers.
  • Building more student housing on the University of Colorado campus, thus lessening effects in adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Considering the rezoning of some commercial and industrial areas for housing, especially affordable types.
  • Maintaining the integrity of the Area III Planning Reserve.

Due to Boulder’s relatively low population growth rate PLAN-Boulder County began to address the growth in commercial and industrial development. In 2001 PLAN-Boulder County became involved with a study of the proper balance of jobs and housing in the city. Ultimately known as the “jobs/pop” study the issue divided environmental and neighborhood activists from developers and business representatives who wanted no limits on employment growth.

The “jobs/pop” study was conducted under a task force appointed by the City Manager, on which PLAN-Boulder County was represented. Between 2001 and 2003 PLAN-Boulder offered recommendations on how to address the imbalance, which resulted in excess commuting into and out of Boulder by non-resident employees. In particular, PLAN-Boulder County suggested:

  • The desired levels of future jobs and population should be determined by the impacts on City services and amenities.
  • Priority should be given to creating housing that would be affordable for those who would be filling the new jobs in Boulder.
  • Small-scale existing retail and service industrial uses should be maintained.
  • Concurrency standards should be established, requiring new development to provide adequate public infrastructure.
  • The City should study what the current and projected water needs and carrying capacity are for the Boulder Valley.
  • Impacts should be closely monitored over a period of time.

One of the major issues was the identification of the amount of space that could be constructed in the existing commercial and industrial districts and where in the city more worker housing could be developed. Ultimately PLAN-Boulder County put its greatest emphasis on requiring that the number of expected jobs be reduced in the planning process and that development be based on concurrency, or requiring development to not exceed the carrying capacity of City services, such as utilities and streets.

PLAN-Boulder County’s input was generally ignored by City Council, which approved a policy on February 18, 2003 that PLAN-Boulder County called vague and disappointing. In particular, PLAN-Boulder County found that the policy contained no mitigation of transportation impacts nor any impact fees or concurrency requirements.

Planning for the 2005 update of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan started in 2004, and would become even more controversial than that for the 2000 update. PLAN-Bolder County was once again involved in the discussions and made several recommendations for the update, including:

  • Require that population projects be updated.
  • Determine the actual carrying capacity of the Boulder Valley, especially water supply.
  • Reserve the Area III Planning Reserve beyond the 15 year horizon.
  • Retain the “four body review” requirement that requires approval of the Comprehensive Plan by the Boulder City Council, Boulder Planning Board, Boulder County Commission and Boulder County Planning Commission.
  • Create a design review capacity, including the addition of an architect to the staff of the City’s Planning and Development Services Department.
  • Reconsider addressing the imbalance in jobs and population.
  • Give attention to how infill development affects existing neighborhoods.
  • Design multi-modal corridors (streets, transit, sidewalks and bicycle lanes or paths).
  • Maintain the City’s historic preservation regulations

The 2005 update was finally approved without many of PLAN-Boulder County’s suggestions, reflecting the political views of a City Council majority more oriented to business and development. That majority was replaced by a new Council majority in 2007 that was more cognizant of Boulder’s environmental and planning traditions.

The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is still in effect and is mandated for updates every five years. Both the City of Boulder and Boulder County have also been involved in numerous other planning activities, all supported by PLAN-Boulder County. In 2007, for example, both jurisdictions began to investigate ways to require building and development standards that took environmental consequences into the equation. PLAN-Boulder County supported the Boulder County Commission’s transfer of development rights concept and the Boulder City Council’s adoption of “Green Points” building codes.

In 2008 several new issues regarding development emerged. The increasing prevalence of “pops and scrapes”, or large residential additions and “McMansions” replacing smaller houses, created debate in Boulder about the affects on neighborhood character and design. PLAN-Boulder County requested City Council to initiate a study of how such development could be controlled to better address impacts on adjacent property owners and neighborhoods in general.

Housing Workshops – What about the 7,000 New Jobs, etc.?

Housing Workshops – What about the 7,000 New Jobs, etc.?

The Boulder Planning Department recently released the following data: For 10 years (2000-2010) the number of jobs in Boulder stayed level and actually dropped by 2,000 jobs in 2009. However, in just 4 years (2010-2014) Boulder has added 7,000 new jobs. In two years there will be at least 3,000-4,000 more jobs due to Google, S*Parks, etc. – and we wonder why we have traffic, housing, and infrastructure problems?

The Planning Department also announced their housing workshops for citizens to “share what they love about their neighborhood and collaborate with small groups”. Last week I went to the East Boulder workshop and couldn’t wait to discuss my ideas about slowing down job growth in Boulder and other ideas for the housing issues.

However, that did not happen. Instead of facilitating a collaborative dialogue among neighbors the Planning Department handed out a list of 12 pre-determined options for making housing more affordable and asked me to choose my top three from those options. I didn’t like any of the options.

For instance (I kid you not) the 12 predetermined options included: 1) Repeal the 55 foot height limit in Boulder, 2) Make zoning changes in neighborhoods to allow more density in quiet residential areas, 3) Increase the occupancy limits which would result in increased noise and traffic in residential areas and give landlords more opportunity to make money. Furthermore, there was no data to indicate that any of the 12 proposals would even be effective.

The following sensible options were not even considered: 1) Limit commercial growth and new jobs to limit the need for new affordable housing, 2) Increase the minimum wage to help people pay for housing in Boulder, 3) Generate more revenue from development/impact fees and taxes on short term rentals like Airbnb (if they are approved), and 4) Use the revenues to purchase and remodel existing buildings as they are put up for sale (i.e. apartments and condos).

The second half of the housing meeting was even worse. We used clickers to vote on numerous questions related to the 12 options (but no other ideas). As the results appeared on screen pictures were taken of the results – as if this totally unscientific polling would be important for future policy making.

Even more importantly there were only about 35 “citizens” at this meeting; and, as I found out, about 10-15 of the attendees didn’t even live in the East part of the city of Boulder. Some were from other cities and there was a group of about 8 unrelated people who currently live together (in violation of Boulder’s occupancy limits) in another area of Boulder. They said they were going to all the housing meetings to make sure their votes would carry a lot of weight.

Now more than ever I am concerned about the direction our city and planning department is headed. I am joining others and signing the citizens’ initiatives for “Neighborhood’s Right to Vote” and “Development Shall Pay Its Way”. These initiatives were developed by former City Council members and former City attorneys who are concerned about Boulder’s future. You can find out more about these initiatives at 4,500 signatures are needed by July 1st. I hope you will sign too!

-Sally Schneider, BA Economics, MA education, JD law A Boulder resident


A quick explanation of Neighborhoods ballot issue – Kimman Harmon

Kimman Harmon: A quick explanation of ballot issue

POSTED:   05/07/2015 07:10:44 PM MDT

Daily Camera LTE

In response to Editorial Advisory Board writer Stu Stuller’s apparent misunderstanding of the Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote initiative (“From the Editorial Advisory Board: Boulder ballot issues,” Daily Camera, May 2), here’s a quick explanation:

•Let’s say the city’s planning department pushes through a land-use change to upzone a particular neighborhood zoning within the city, say, RL-2 zoning.

•It would go forward in all RL-2 zoned neighborhoods in Boulder.

•But if one of those neighborhoods objected strongly enough, to where 10 percent of that neighborhood’s voters signed a petition calling for a referendum within that neighborhood, that neighborhood, and that neighborhood only, would get a referendum on the issue.

•Then, all the voters in that neighborhood would have an opportunity to vote on the upzoning proposal, only in relation to their neighborhood.

•If a majority of that neighborhood’s voters rejected the upzoning proposal, it would not go into effect, in that neighborhood.

•That neighborhood’s vote would only apply to that neighborhood. It would not, as Stuller incorrectly stated, affect all (or even any) other parts of the city.

•That’s what is so appealing about the initiative: it gives all neighborhoods a choice. If other neighborhoods share Stuller’s personal conclusion that policies from the city’s density-driven planning department will “benefit” them, they’d simply go along with the proposals. No action would be required. The upzoning policies would go in effect everywhere but the neighborhood that overturns it by a majority vote within that neighborhood.

•I really wish that we didn’t have to go to these measures to keep what should be kept; that we could trust the powers that be to do the right thing. And so that is why I support the Neighborhood’s Right to Vote initiative. And let’s keep the discussion to what the initiative actually states.

Kimman Harmon


Stick to the truth on ballot issues – Sandra Snyder

Sandra Snyder: Stick to the truth on ballot issues

POSTED:   04/30/2015 07:15:18 PM MDT
Link to the Daily Camera LTE
Let Boulder residents decide if they support the citizens’ initiative “Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote on Land Use Regulation Changes” based on the facts.

In Morgan McMillan’s letter (“Bad policy,” Daily Camera Open Forum, April 29), she greatly misrepresented the initiative. If a neighborhood requests a vote on a regulation change, the majority of voters in the neighborhood decide the matter (not a 10 percent minority, as McMillan claimed). Before a neighborhood can hold a vote, 10 percent of the neighborhood’s voters must sign a petition. This 10 percent hurdle ensures the land-use change is contentious enough to warrant a vote by all. The letter also incorrectly references “subjectively defined neighborhoods.” The neighborhoods are defined on the city of Boulder’s own website, showing Boulder neighborhoods and their boundaries.

The Neighborhoods’ Rights initiative is firmly grounded in democratic participation principles and follows in form and spirit Section 177 of the Boulder Open Space Charter,, which affords citizens the right to petition for a vote to overturn City Council disposal of Open Space.

More broadly, the initiative aligns with Section 47 of Article IV of the City Charter,, which defines referendum measures.

Let us present facts honestly so we can have a productive debate about some of the tough development issues facing Boulder.

Finally, I strongly disagree with the mean-spirited assumption that many Boulder residents are selfish. If the details of proposed land-use changes are thoughtful and balanced, neighborhoods may embrace them. Under this initiative, there is strong incentive to craft regulation details that bring us together instead of pitting us against each other.

If you want a say in what happens to your neighborhood, I urge you to sign the petition that will be circulating around Boulder in the coming weeks.

Sandra Snyder


Ballot issues are not radical measures—Karen Sandburg

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado
POSTED:   04/28/2015 07:11:07 PM
Link to Daily Camera letter

Boulder citizens have come up with two initiatives to address concerns that development is unchecked and unconcerned with what the community wants. Many of us don’t feel that our city planners are listening to the people of Boulder and feel the city government is weighted in favor of high- density development.

One initiative, called the “Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote on Land Use Regulation Changes” addresses the possibility that the city, in the near future, will try to change land-use zoning in many neighborhoods to make way for denser development, such as increased occupancy limits or taller buildings. The initiative will give every neighborhood impacted by city-directed land-use changes an opportunity to put to a vote whether or not they want the change. Essentially, this amendment is about who gets to decide about land-use changes in your neighborhood. Should it be the city planning department or you and your neighbors?

The other initiative, called “Development Shall Pay Its Own Way,” addresses the need for development to pay for its impacts. Currently, taxpayers are subsidizing development because developers are not required to fully fund the increase in city services and facilities made necessary by their particular project. The initiative attempts to bridge the gap between what developers are paying and the actual cost of the increased city services. The net result is that taxpayers will no longer have to subsidize development.

Neither of these are radical measures. One gives us the right to require a vote on upzoning in our neighborhoods and the other makes those who profit from development pay the full cost associated with it.

To be sure that these initiatives are put to a vote in November, several thousand Boulder voters must sign petitions requesting they be put on the ballot. Look for petition circulators soon.

Karen Sandburg

We do not oppose growth—John Price

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado
POSTED:   04/27/2015 07:47:16 PM

[Editor’s Note:  John Price is one of five petitioners for an initiative entitled “Development Shall Pay Its Own Way.”]

In the baldest misrepresentation I have seen in the Daily Camera, the April 23 lead article (“Voters may join development debate”) has a sub-headline “Growth opponents propose pair of charter amendments,” and in the first sentence …”growth opponents on Wednesday announced….” Both are false. We do not oppose growth, we do not oppose development. We request more stringent controls; development exceeds what we feel is desirable. Now opponents of our proposals can QUOTE the Camera as a source for these misstatements.

John Price

Let people speak on neighborhood rights—Jenny Devaud

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado
POSTED:   04/26/2015 07:24:39 PM

I support the right of neighborhoods to voice their opinion about development changes that affect them. The significant onus to collect signatures to allow representation is more than adequate to discourage a small subset of the population from dominating the conversation. This is what democracy is all about. It’s not top-down, nor should decisions be made simply by those whose livelihood depends on more construction. The funny thing is that many of the pro-development/housing folks, in my experience, don’t even live in neighborhoods that will ever be affected, such as Newlands, Mapleton Hill, South Boulder. I have personally lived through a four-year protracted fight against up-zoning in Goss-Grove, which is already the highest density neighborhood in Boulder. The new zoning would have prevented building of any single-family home over 800 square feet, thereby ensuring that any available property would only be developed into yet another multi-unit. There has to be a balance, a human scale, a mix of housing. I am really tired of the mantra of the development folks about “green, sustainable, new urbanism, affordable.” It’s a whitewash. I’m also tired of the scolding about how selfish are those who throw in their hat to preserve what is unique in Boulder, and to grow in a manner that reflects the respect for that uniqueness. Let’s have an honest conversation where everyone has their say, not just the pro-growth faction. I support the neighborhoods’ right to vote on changes to land use that affect them.

Let the people speak.

Jenny Devaud

Help gather signatures—Stacey Goldfarb

Daily Camera
POSTED:   04/25/2015 08:36:58 PM

A group of concerned Boulder citizens from different neighborhoods throughout our city got together to address development issues. On April 21, they delivered two proposed petitions to the city of Boulder addressing those concerns. With your help, if we gather enough signatures, these petitions will put two citizens’ ballot initiatives on the November ballot. The initiatives are:

  1. Development shall pay its own way — Requires that new development must fully fund the additional city services and facilities needed because of the demands it creates. This will have the effect of lessening the impacts of development and put the onus on developers, not citizens, to address these impacts through impact fees, linkage fees and other mechanisms.
  1. Neighborhoods vote on zoning changes — Neighborhoods get a voice in zoning changes that may affect them. This initiative would guarantee that neighborhoods have the opportunity to require a neighborhood vote on proposed zoning changes that would impact their neighborhood, such as multi-unit apartment buildings replacing single-family housing.

High voter support for the above initiatives was indicated in a 2015 poll. That is why these particular initiatives are being pursued and why they have a good chance of passing. But we need your help! We can’t do it without you.

We need most of you to help gather the over 4,000 signatures required to get these initiatives on the November ballot. To help gather petition signatures, sign up at Go to the “Initiative” tab and select “volunteer.” We can’t succeed with these initiatives without your support.

This November is a critical moment in Boulder’s history. Thank you for helping to protect and preserve the Boulder we love!

Stacey Goldfarb

A housing solution — Nancy McCurry

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   02/27/2015 06:30:39 PM MST

There has been much talk about the housing shortage in Boulder and ways to solve it. The recent development boom has raised widespread concerns about the direction our city is heading to provide housing for people to live and work in Boulder. According to a January 2014 news article on CU’s website, approximately 22,000 students live off campus. That’s over 70 percent of CU-Boulder’s students. Assuming four students per dwelling, that’s at least 5,500 dwellings occupied by students. While some live out of town, many do not and thus thousands of Boulder dwellings are occupied by students which increases the competition for our town’s limited housing.

Given this imbalance of on- and off-campus student housing, wouldn’t it be reasonable for CU to provide more on-campus housing? Doing so could provide thousands of modest dwellings for working professionals who wish to live and work in Boulder. This would reduce the need for new development, reduce the daily influx of traffic and provide affordable dwellings that are in such short supply. One trend to solve Boulder’s housing shortage has been through in-fill and densification. Perhaps CU could be a good neighbor and do the same, including at one or both of the locations proposed for a new conference center. Getting more students to live on campus would solve a host of problems.

Nancy McCurry

We are not LoDo — George Kasynski

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   02/27/2015 06:31:31 PM MST

In the years preceding the building of Coors Field, the surrounding area was mostly blighted. Much to the credit of the city of Denver and entrepreneurs (and Major League Baseball), the area was transformed into a successful “neighborhood” known as LoDo.

Last week, at the Boulder Planning Board meeting, during public testimony, a Boulder resident said “If I wanted to live in LoDo, I’d live in LoDo!” He asked that the Planning Board recommend to Council to not persist along its path of transforming Boulder into something the majority of its residents don’t want,

Boulder’s history fostered the creation of building height limits, the Blue Line, the Danish Plan and Open Space. These efforts weren’t undertaken to purposely be exclusionary or against growth, per se. They were created to preserve that which the residents of the city and county deemed important. Those measures were (and are) an attempt to arrest cancerous growth emanating from special interest groups.

We’re not a blighted area! We don’t need to provide economic incentives, such as anemic linkage fees and what seems to be a rubber stamping of height exceptions to lure businesses to Boulder. Businesses want to come here because of what we’ve created with our measured approach to growth. But this process of exception has become the new normal. Well, it’s time to stop before we lose what most of us value. It’s time for a two-year moratorium on height ordinance exceptions (as suggested by the Planning Board),and to reevaluate embracing the thinking that gave us projects like the Great Wall of Pearl St. (Boulder Junction) or the purposed S *#!$* Park and other forms of urban density.

Let’s all pause, take a collective breath and create a sensible Comprehensive Plan that reflects the will of its constituents not just those of the development community.

George Kasynski

Let’s do it right — Jenny Devaud

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   02/22/2015 07:32:01 PM MST

It used to be that the majority of City Council heeded public sentiment, which supported growth control and protection of natural resources. Those protections are what allowed Boulder to be a mecca for recreation, science, new businesses, all of which make Boulder what it is. Boulderites, as well as folks in surrounding areas, have benefited from this with an offering of high-quality jobs, access to trails, great restaurants, etc. It appears that era has disappeared with all the “green, new urbanism, sustainable” development, which to my eyes actually looks like unbridled development with little consideration of human scale, aesthetics or practical realities. Boulder will never be able to house everyone who wants to live here, and more and more, the opportunities for families who would like a single-family home are out of reach. Putting up more apartment buildings (rentals) and more office space does not address this problem, but only makes it more acute. Issues of increased traffic and gridlock are not being honestly discussed, affecting all those who live and work here. The concept that a much larger percentage of workers will willingly commute by bike/bus/walk is not supportable, nor is the idea that soon everyone will have self-driving cars which drop you off at work as suggested at a developer’s event a few months back.

Those of us who work and have families have scant time/energy to go to Council/Planning meetings, write letters or make phone calls to voice our concerns. The folks who are working full time to develop their mega-projects have all the time in world, and frankly a high financial incentive to get their projects built. Redevelopment, aesthetic design, green spaces, sensible expansion of housing/business are all desirable. Let’s do it right; the wrong decisions will haunt us for many years.

Jenny Devaud, Boulder


No height exemptions — Ruth Blackmore

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   02/19/2015 06:45:32 PM MST

Throughout the past 15 years, Boulder’s approach to growth management has been policies with so many exceptions and holes that they are more like dysfunctional junction. The effect: our actual growth rate far exceeds our theoretical growth-limit level.

Now planning staff have proposed an ordinance that would create a two-year pause on height-limit exemptions (i.e., allowing buildings to be built to 55 feet rather than the 35-foot zoning limit). Great idea, at first glance, but closer examination shows that it exempts all the areas where tall buildings are being built or are planned: downtown, Boulder Junction, North Boulder, and the Hill. Buildings in all those places could continue to go up to 55 feet.

Citizens are clearly concerned about tall buildings. That’s why this ordinance was proposed in the first place. So make this a meaningful Height Modification Ordinance. Remove all the exemptions. Place a two-year hold everywhere until we’ve sorted out the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, Comprehensive Plan Update, piloted form-based zoning and had a community dialogue about visioning and Boulderites have made it clear how they feel about current development trends. In its current form, the ordinance is simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I’m also concerned about which projects are “grandfathered.” The city ought not enable a development gold rush by saying those in the pipeline are exempted. City of Boulder: people make mistakes. We’re in a whirlwind of development. It’s OK to admit that mistakes have been made. The best way to make it right is to plug the holes and apply the ordinance throughout the city, including projects currently in the pipeline. Otherwise, just give it an honest name: the “won’t have any effect” ordinance.

Ruth Blackmore

Boulder skipping an important step — Cathy Conery

POSTED:   02/03/2015 06:49:37 PM MST
Daily Camera, Boulder, CO

These comments regarding community planning may shed light on recent contentiousness and may provide some direction in future planning.

According to the American Planning Association, “Planners help the community and its various groups identify their goals and form a particular vision. In the creation of a plan, planners identify the strategies by which the community can reach its goals and vision.” Boulder’s approach to development seems to go directly to strategies, without defined end-game targets or goals in terms of population, traffic, daily in-commuters, etc.

In comprehensive planning, according to Wikipedia, “Goals are community visions. They establish priorities for communities and help community leaders make future decisions which will affect the city. Stating goals is not always an easy process and it requires the active participation of all people in the community.”

It’s critical that Boulder planners include all citizens in the community.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) notes, “Ideally, all government programs should have goals and objectives explicitly stated as part of the program planning process. In reality, very few government programs have explicit, meaningful goal and objective statements. This poses a problem in program evaluation, since there is no clearly stated direction with which actual performance can be compared.”

Boulder seems to lack a community-defined goal for maximum population. Is it 110,000 residents? 150,000? 250,000? The same could be said for the city’s quest for more companies locating here and the resultant increases in daily in-commuters. Is the threshold of acceptability 80,000 in-commuters, 100,000? How many more Boulder corporations do we seek and what length of traffic jams on U.S. 36?

If Boulder lacks defined goals in these areas, but plunges ahead with policies, we’re likely to arrive at accidental and unintended results — many of which we’re likely to regret.

Cathy Conery  Boulder

Poor decision on Google — Sally Schneider

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   12/24/2014 05:27:35 PM MST

When the city council and city planning board approved the 1,500-employee Google office complex near 30th and Pearl it was one of the worst decisions the city has ever made. It will take Boulder in the exact opposite direction from where it claims it wants to go regarding affordable housing and strengthening the middle (in terms of income distribution). How the Google complex could be approved is beyond me.

Google and other tech companies’ expanding presence in the San Francisco Bay Area has skyrocketed rents, to the tune of 12 percent increases just last year. And Google, unlike downtown commercial developments, will be exempt from paying linkage fees that go toward affordable housing. My comments are not personal to Google, or about them as a company. I’m addressing the lack of intelligent city policy and planning, given where Boulder finds itself at this particular point in its history.

Also, adding 1,500 commuters to 30th and Pearl, when huge amounts of traffic will soon be added to that intersection due to the large Boulder Junction Hotel, Solana rental apartments, and the likely approval of another complex of four- to five-story buildings called La Reve, is simply unconscionable and not at all respectful of the impact on the current citizens of Boulder. Has the transportation department done any studies on this reality and have they shared them with the planning board and city council? Finally, 1,500 workers actually represent close to 5,000 residents, considering spouses and families.

Next November there will be five city council positions on the ballot. It’s time for citizens to band together to find candidates who won’t keep Boulder heading along this destructive path of massive development, higher rents, disappearing middle class, and clogged roads.

Sally Schneider, Boulder

Development, whose vision? — Martha and John Andrews

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   01/02/2015 06:12:59 PM MST

Steve Pomerance and Erica Meltzer, both writing in the Camera on Sunday, Dec. 28, resonate with our feelings regarding the lack of involvement of local homeowners in plans for re-development in east Boulder. These plans will affect us a great deal. We had no idea that a “Project” was about to begin in this area. We would like to draw your attention to the following website:

Envision East Arapahoe-Planning Project – City of Boulder.…/eastarapahoeplanningproject

Please also look at the maps linked to the page.

My husband and I have owned and lived in our home on Kennedy Court since June 1973. Now we find out that a great deal of our neighborhood falls within the oval study line for this Envision project. The line goes from Folsom St. to 75th St. west to east, and includes several blocks on either side of Arapahoe St. In fact, Envision’s study line abuts 100 feet of our property and also that of the popular Arapahoe Ridge Park.

We had no idea that planning for this project, which would alter an already satisfactory mix of housing types and businesses, was underway. Our question to City Council and all of their unelected planners of whom we were not aware, is this:

Are we not ‘stakeholders?’

About two or three years ago we checked on the addresses of City Council members and found that all but one lived west of Broadway. We would like to see Boulder return to a ward system since we are definitely not represented out here.

We would like the council to put a hold on further progress on this project until they arrange a widely-publicized (not only in the Camera) meeting of residents and businesses within the project study line.

Martha and John Andrews, Boulder

We should be looking forward — David Chicoine

POSTED:   07/13/2014 01:00:00 AM MDT
Denver Post, Denver, CO

Steve Pomerance seems to have been a fairly lonely voice lately championing the connections between local democracy, sustainability, and quality of life issues here in Boulder.

Well, he certainly speaks for me. In my four years here in this remarkable and beloved city I have noticed a real deterioration in the quality of life. Have you also noticed the increasingly congested traffic during rush hours? The boxy apartment/condo building complexes springing up like mushrooms and being squeezed into every last available place? The many new buildings in town that are taller than those neighboring them? That these buildings also edge closer to the sidewalks than the structures adjacent?

Shouldn’t the quality of life of the 100,000 souls already living here — and, very importantly, of the generations to come — be the very first priority when it comes to making decisions about Boulder’s growth? And when does growth tip over from healthy and natural to unhealthy and even destructive? At what point does the increase in Boulder’s population become unwise? Where are the concerns for the aesthetic dimension of the town, with all this new building and the exceptions apparently being granted to both the zoning and building codes?

Boulder is the wonderful city it is today because of the foresightedness, courage, and persistence of earlier generations of town leaders. Didn’t they place preserving and even enhancing the quality of life here as their supreme guiding value? And aren’t these crucial issues facing Boulder today ultimately choices between values?

David Chicoine, Boulder 

Boulder is a Great Place to Live!