September 28, 2012

1995 – Compromise defeated slow-growth initiative

BOULDER — The face-off between growth and no-growth advocates in Boulder County reached a crescendo in 1995, when an initiative called Slow Growth! found a place on the Boulder city ballot and almost won.

With the exception of massive layoffs at Louisville-based Storage Technology Corp., business was booming in Boulder County in 1995. As fast as developers could build, growing companies filled the buildings. Jobs were pouring into the county, especially Boulder itself.

The downside to all this prosperity was a meteoric rise in housing prices and traffic congestion. Something had to be done.

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What emerged was a ballot initiative to reduce construction of commercial and industrial space in Boulder. The initiative proposed that the annual square footage allocated for commercial/industrial building permits in the city be limited to less than 1 percent of the floor area of existing commercial/industrial space in Boulder at the end of 1993. The initiative also proposed that residential building permits be limited to no more than 1 percent annually of those issued in 1993.

The idea was an immediate hit with voters. Early in the year, it looked as if the initiative would pass.

The business community was divided. Some figured business would simply have to deal with the voters’ wishes. Some wanted to fight it. Others favored a middle-ground solution, working with Boulder’s city council to craft a growth-control ordinance with which business could live. The compromise ordinance ideally would be passed before the November election and take the steam out of the slow-growth initiative.

Ultimately, the middle-ground camp prevailed, and the Chamber of Commerce worked closely with the council to craft the ordinance. The Chamber, however, also decided to fight the Slow Growth! initiative, assembling the “We Want to Stay” campaign and raising $100,000 to fund it.

In September, Boulder’s city council adopted a growth-control ordinance that allowed nearly double the amount of square footage to be built in 1996 as did the Slow Growth! initiative but subsequently reduced the square-footage allowance in 2000.

The compromise ordinance, coupled with the Chamber’s well-financed campaign, slowed the momentum of the Slow Growth! initiative. It went down to defeat in November. The compromise ordinance stayed on the city’s books for only about 20 months, until the council chose downzoning and rezoning as an alternative.

BOULDER — The face-off between growth and no-growth advocates in Boulder County reached a crescendo in 1995, when an initiative called Slow Growth! found a place on the Boulder city ballot and almost won.

With the exception of massive layoffs at Louisville-based Storage Technology Corp., business was booming in Boulder County in 1995. As fast as developers could build, growing companies filled the buildings. Jobs were pouring into the county, especially Boulder itself.

The downside to all this prosperity was a meteoric rise in housing prices and traffic congestion. Something had to be done.

What emerged was a ballot initiative to reduce construction…

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