Boulder ends Opportunity Zone development moratorium

BOULDER — A moratorium on development within Boulder’s Opportunity Zone has been repealed.

Boulder City Council members voted 6-1 to roll back the measure Tuesday, freeing up developers to begin projects that could allow them to reap tax benefits.

The Opportunity Zone program, established as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, allows investors to realize certain tax incentives if they put their money into projects within economically distressed neighborhoods. 

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. Some council members and local affordable-housing advocates believe 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 council did approve a series of land-use changes to help assuage those concerns. But the changes ultimately adopted by council are a far cry from those originally proposed — opposed by the development community and the Boulder Chamber — which would have limited office space to no more than 25 percent of floor space in building within the Opportunity Zone’s commercial districts. 

The adopted changes take aim specifically at large office projects and restricts office construction projects of 20,000 square feet or larger. 

“The Boulder Chamber and its members appreciate Planning staff and City Council listening to the input of Boulder’s development professionals that are familiar with our land use code and associated city goals,” Boulder Chamber leaders wrote in a letter to council and staff. “The staff’s revised recommendations will affect fewer existing Boulder business and create fewer nonconformities than what had been previously proposed.”

The board also backpedaled on a proposal that would limit office uses in residential zoning districts to 25 percent of square footage.

“The Boulder Chamber strongly supports the new staff recommendation to not prohibit

or limit office uses in residential zones,” the chamber’s letter said. “We appreciate staff’s acknowledgement that these small neighborhood offices support multiple [comprehensive land use planning] policies for creating walkable neighborhoods.”

Boulder leaders also implemented a zoning overlay within the Opportunity Zone that blocks the demolition of multifamily housing units within the area. This addresses a community concern that less-costly housing options would be replaced with office buildings, large homes or luxury condominiums. 

 

BOULDER — A moratorium on development within Boulder’s Opportunity Zone has been repealed.

Boulder City Council members voted 6-1 to roll back the measure Tuesday, freeing up developers to begin projects that could allow them to reap tax benefits.

The Opportunity Zone program, established as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, allows investors to realize certain tax incentives if they put their money into projects within economically distressed neighborhoods. 

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. Some council members and local affordable-housing advocates believe 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 council did approve a series of land-use changes to help assuage those concerns. But the changes ultimately adopted by council are a far cry from those originally proposed — opposed by the development community and the Boulder Chamber — which would have limited office space to no more than 25 percent of floor space in building within the Opportunity Zone’s commercial districts. 

The adopted changes take aim specifically at large office projects and…