We are Boulder’s stakeholders — Jan Trussell

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   01/24/2015 07:45:51 PM MST

The Daily Camera the last few weeks has offered up many interesting editorials, opinions and letters to the editor regarding density, secret meetings with developers, public input or lack thereof, the changing of occupancy limits, restricting parking, upzoning existing neighborhoods and where we should go from here.

Simply put, Boulder cannot be all things to everyone. Those of us with a strong desire to live in Boulder made sacrifices and concessions to live here. We rented until we could afford to buy property. We respected the height limits, occupancy limits, open space, cost of living, etc. We didn’t start a crusade to change the character of the existing neighborhoods or the city for that matter. We accepted those rules and regulations. Simply put, we are the stakeholders in Boulder and our input is not being heard.

The city has moved away from conventional zoning to what is known as form-based code, a relatively new method of managing growth and shaping development to achieve a specific urban form and mix of uses as preferred by a given community. It seems our city leaders and representatives they’ve appointed, like our city manager and planning department, have shied from public input to cater to the whims of developers and a handful of density advocates.

I’ve seen examples of other cities used by those pushing for development such as Zurich, Freiburg, Copenhagen, etc. to promote this density argument. I would, instead, recommend that Boulder leaders consider a neighborhood-based planning approach, such as the one used in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is much larger than Boulder with a population of 243,000 and approximately 120 neighborhood associations. There are currently 25 adopted neighborhood plans in the city, with several more in progress.

The point being, the neighborhoods themselves are the primary authors of the plan and city planning staff contributes professional services such as mapping, data, drawing, and rendering. The plans provided by the residents are known as neighborhood concentration plans. They include short-term strategies (3-5 years) to address specific challenges, issues and opportunities in Madison’s older neighborhoods. These neighborhood concentration plans typically address some or all of the following issues: community services, economic development, housing development, land use, parks and open space, public infrastructure, safety, transportation and zoning issues.

Should we not return to a more inclusive public forum, especially when development negatively affects the quality of life that many of us considered when we decided to purchase a home in Boulder?

The Jan. 18 guest opinion in the Daily Camera by our city manager was titled, “Planning our future, together.” Sadly, this process is far removed from just that. To quote Ms. Brautigam, “I must admit to being both disappointed and disturbed” at the lengths the city has taken to dissuade neighborhood involvement regarding the ongoing development in Boulder.

It was very interesting to note that two of the letters to the editor printed on Jan. 17 in support of Zane Selvans’ previous opinion piece advocating parking restrictions and density were written by Ken Hotard and Michael Leccese. Both of these gentlemen, along with Mr. Selvans, are members of the Better Boulder steering committee, an entity that pushes for more density, upzoning and parking restrictions.

Finally, the Daily Camera’s editorial written on Jan. 21 speaks of internal notes obtained by the Camera. It appears one of the staffers considers any outside criticism as “drivel.” Is this the type of reaction we should expect from generously-paid public servants that work for the taxpayers of Boulder?

I respectfully request that city council consider a more neighborhood-based planning approach. There are many neighborhoods in Boulder and they all want and need different things. In addition to that, council needs to move up the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan discussion before considering code changes and, most important, involve all neighborhoods in future development projects in the city.

Jan Trussell lives in Boulder.