Boulder City Council halts development on University Hill

BOULDER – The Boulder City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday night during a special meeting called on short notice to impose a short-term moratorium on accepting applications for redevelopment in the University Hill Business District.

The council wants more discussion on what can be built in the district because a trend has developed to convert commercial properties to residential uses, specifically high-end student housing, which doesn’t fit with the city’s vision of more mixed-use redevelopment in the district next to the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

“Moratorium is not our favorite tool,” said David Driskell, the city’s executive director of community planning. “But it is an opportunity to press the pause button and make sure that what we are seeing is what we want, or if we want something different, what are the tools we put in place to get a different outcome.”

Driskell said the city is in the process of hiring a coordinator position, and will create a ballot measure for a bond to fund improvements to infrastructure on The Hill.

The developers of two separate projects to build student housing that don’t include retail or office space within the district expressed their concern over the moratorium.

Both Zane Blackmer and Mike Boyer said that student housing is the only type of development within the district that makes economic sense. “Mixed-use is a great idea, but it’s not realistic,” Blackmer said.

Boyer, a Hill property owner, wants to build high-end student housing that is paid for by affluent parents of students is the economic driver. “It’s hard to find an economically feasible alternative,” he said.

The meeting was called on short notice, but city attorney Tom Carr said legal notification requirements were met by providing a written notice to council members 12 hours in advance of the meeting and notice of the meeting was posted on the city’s website 24 hours in advance.

The moratorium was enacted by approving an ordinance that instructs the city manager to not accept applications for redevelopment on The Hill, and freezing building permits, concept review plans and site plans through Aug. 20.

Mayor Matt Applebaum said a public discussion on the topic is scheduled for the city council meeting Aug. 19.

The city council approved two other moratoriums in the past two years: a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in January 2012, and an 18-month moratorium on fracking in June 2013.

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