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