Boulder City Council pushes back opportunity zone discussion

BOULDER — Facing a packed agenda and dozens of public speakers on hand to comment about potential e-cigarette regulation changes, the Boulder City Council opted to punt Tuesday evening on an opportunity to ask questions of city staff about a pending measure that would update land use rules and remove a development moratorium within Boulder’s designated opportunity zone. 

“We had hoped to have a discussion on opportunity zones prior to a public hearing coming up in two weeks,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said. “But we can just submit questions [to city planning staffers in writing] in advance and address it all one time during the public hearing” set for Sept. 3.

The staff presentation that was scheduled to be heard Tuesday by council members was given late last month to Boulder’s Planning Board.

During that July meeting, the board voted unanimously to recommend that the Boulder City Council end a development moratorium within the city’s designated opportunity zone.

Boulder leaders implemented the development moratorium in February as a way to address concerns that the investors in the city’s opportunity zone — a 2.5-square-mile tract stretching from 28th to 55th streets and Arapahoe Avenue to the Diagonal Highway — will reap all of the rewards and their money will speed up gentrification rather than assist the disadvantaged.

Critics argued that without changes to the city’s land-use table, the city’s “jobs-housing imbalance” would be exacerbated by commercial development within the zone. That imbalance is a reference to Boulder’s ongoing challenge of providing affordable housing options for the city’s workforce.

The recommendations made by staff and cosigned by the planning board include limiting office uses to no more than 25 percent of building floor area unless onsite affordable housing is included, prohibiting the construction of additional offices in certain mostly residential areas where office space is already abundant and increasing scrutiny of single-family home development proposals.

The Boulder Chamber of Commerce has come out in favor of eliminating the moratorium.

In a letter to city leaders earlier this week, Boulder Chamber president John Tayer wrote, “The Boulder Chamber supports the planning board’s unanimous recommendation to immediately remove the current moratorium within the opportunity zone area.”

He continued: “The chamber appreciates your responsiveness to calls to lift the moratorium, as it has added uncertainty for the property owners and local businesses in this census tract, stifling targeted investments for property improvements that align with broadly supported community goals in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan. Further delay in lifting the moratorium risks losing the very benefits that the opportunity zone program offers to incentivize, and assist with, desired redevelopment and property improvements.”

While the chamber agrees with the principle of rolling back the moratorium, the business community is not entirely comfortable with all of the proposed land use regulation changes. Specifically, the chamber has taken issue with the idea of curtailing where office spaces can be developed.

“The Boulder Chamber urges city council to refrain from using universal policy that tends to limit what’s possible, and rather maintain flexibility that allows for creativity to flourish where opportunities present themselves,” Tayer wrote. “These changes are likely to be in place for many years, so it is important to have widespread understanding of these decisions.”

BOULDER — Facing a packed agenda and dozens of public speakers on hand to comment about potential e-cigarette regulation changes, the Boulder City Council opted to punt Tuesday evening on an opportunity to ask questions of city staff about a pending measure that would update land use rules and remove a development moratorium within Boulder’s designated opportunity zone. 

“We had hoped to have a discussion on opportunity zones prior to a public hearing coming up in two weeks,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said. “But we can just submit questions [to city planning staffers in writing] in advance and address it all one time during the public hearing” set for Sept. 3.

The staff presentation that was scheduled to be heard Tuesday by council members was given late last month to Boulder’s Planning Board.

During that July meeting, the board voted unanimously to recommend that the Boulder City Council end a development moratorium within the city’s designated opportunity zone.

Boulder leaders implemented the development moratorium in February as a way to address concerns that the investors in the city’s opportunity zone — a 2.5-square-mile tract stretching from 28th to 55th streets and Arapahoe Avenue to the Diagonal Highway — will reap all of the rewards and their money will speed up gentrification rather than assist the disadvantaged.

Critics argued that without changes to the city’s land-use table, the city’s “jobs-housing imbalance” would be exacerbated by commercial development within the zone. That imbalance is a reference to Boulder’s ongoing challenge of providing affordable…