Nonprofits  August 26, 2022

Tayer: CU South — Closing argument, again

There’s a constitutional principle that prohibits prosecutors from trying a defendant twice for the same criminal offense when they are found innocent in the first trial. As we’ve seen in community debate over thorny policy issues, like the battle over annexation of the CU South property, it seems some aren’t willing to abide by this same principle.

John Tayer, Boulder Chamber CEO

Hopefully, the weight of the evidence, let alone the many hours of expert technical and public review, the enormous financial resources applied to that review, and multiple City Council and public votes, will end further relitigation of the CU South annexation debate.  And with that, I hope this is my final closing argument and we can fully move forward — with no more delay — on the critical public safety improvements and community benefits that are at play in this case. 

In an effort not to confuse the jury by responding to every red herring issue that annexation detractors throw on the debate table (see previous BizWest column – Water scarcity and CU South), I offer the following focused argument for voting against this November’s ballot initiative that would overturn the CU South annexation:

Save Lives: When 2013 flood waters poured into the Frasier Meadows neighborhood, the question of flooding risk associated with South Boulder Creek was no longer theoretical. Tim Johnson, president of the Frasier Meadows senior living facility, provides a vivid recollection of carrying tenants to safety in hip-high flood waters. It is miraculous that no one died during that catastrophic incident.

The CU South annexation will give the city of Boulder ownership of the land necessary for a 100-year flood protection project. Multiple flood control experts and our city staff team have thoroughly studied this flood control option to make sure we are providing a level of protection that is feasible, given other property, financial and environmental preservation constraints. 

Annexation detractors argue that we should build to the 500-year flood protection level. More is not always better. Such an investment would be enormously costly, cause severe damage to natural areas, and it’s not clear we could secure the necessary permits. As former Mayor Sam Weaver said, “The 500-year plan unfortunately doesn’t work and delay of CU South annexation and the resulting flood protections could have deadly local consequences.”

House People: I’ve been around Boulder long enough to remember the days when university staff served as the backbone of our community, sitting on civic boards, assuming elected office, and generally contributing to our appealing college town character. Today, it is the rare professor or administrator who can afford housing in Boulder. That represents a great loss in terms of character, diversity and a commitment to our local community. 

To address these housing concerns, our community has long held there is a role for the University to play. As stated in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan: “The city and county recognize the role of the university in the housing market and encourage the University of Colorado and other post-secondary institutions in their efforts to increase the amount of on-campus housing.” And that is exactly what the University has committed to constructing on the CU South property.

Specifically, the vast majority of development on CU South is slated for an estimated 1,100+ housing units to serve university employees and students. Further, the agreement designates five acres for affordable housing, which should yield an anticipated 100+ units for local residents. We’ve asked CU to provide housing and that’s exactly what we’ll get through the annexation agreement. 

Case Closed: Imagining my own Perry Mason moment here, I reference the reason why our constitution prohibits double jeopardy in criminal proceedings. It prevents unscrupulous prosecutors from exacting vengeful legal attacks on innocent defendants, giving them the opportunity to move on with their lives. 

In the case of the CU South annexation agreement, we have fully litigated this issue, yet through the November ballot, we are asked, once again, to reconsider our support. This delay threatens lives. This delay possibly forecloses the opportunity to secure housing for valued community members. This delay is an affront to those who have worked so hard to bridge the once fraught town-gown divide. 

Let’s close this case . . . The CU South annexation agreement represents a new positive era in the relationship between the University of Colorado where we work together to achieve mutual goals. That is something to celebrate, not relitigate. Let’s send a message at the ballot box this November: Vote no for no more delay!

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or john.tayer@boulderchamber.com.

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