Updating land use tables and review processes for proposed developments, especially as related to Boulder’s federal opportunity zone, is at the top of the list of city council’s priorities for 2019.
The council met Tuesday for a study session to set the agenda for its Jan. 18 retreat.
Council last month was split on a vote that ultimately put a moratorium on demolition and development in the opportunity zone, an area that runs from Arapahoe Avenue to Diagonal Highway between 28th and 55th streets.
That move was triggered in part by Macy’s submitting an application to redevelop its massive store on the Twenty Ninth Street mall into office space late last year, although the retailer is not using funding related to the zone. The moratorium prohibits through 2020 creating any additional floor area, as well as any demolition that results in the removal of any multi-family or commercial floor area.
While Councilman Aaron Brockett suggested incentivizing the development of more housing along 28th and 30th streets as a solution to concerns about the opportunity zone, he said, “I realize I’m in the minority.”
The opportunity zone is a designation that allows capital gains taxes to be deferred, reduced or eliminated for investments made in the zone.
Council passed the moratorium to ensure its vision laid out in the recently updated Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is maintained while the development rules that will solidify it also are updated.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be a rezoning that comes from the comprehensive plan. I don’t think we could get that part done (this year), but I think we could get some of the housing allowance done,” Councilman Sam Weaver said.
The Diagonal Plaza has been the most targeted area in the opportunity zone, City Manager Jane Brautigam said, and its particular type of zoning — business-community — is slated to undergo code changes.
“Even if it is just to set up the next council, I think we need to come up with an action plan for how to eventually pursue redevelopment of Diagonal Plaza,” Mayor Suzanne Jones, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, wrote in an email outlining her priorities for the year. “Maybe our use table work under the opportunity zone moratorium will be sufficient next steps by this council, but I would like to hear from staff and/or discuss at retreat what is needed to move this project forward in the next few years.”
While the Design Advisory Board did not formally offer any ideas for council to prioritize because too few members were able to attend its last two meetings, its chairwoman Lauren Folkerts suggested implementing building design standards could help ensure a consistent look about the city, eliminating the need for moratoriums sparked by new development proposals.
“Construction is an important part of our economy, but we need to make sure it’s changing our city for the better. If we had a long-term vision, we wouldn’t need so many debates and emergency measures. Moratoriums are not good governance, they are very disruptive and do not allow for proper public process,” Folkerts said.
“I think we can do better. I would like to see council create a vision for how we channel incoming people and investment in our community in a way that benefits everyone,” she added.
The second-ranked priority for now was directing city staff to codify which community benefits — such as placement of public art or additional affordable housing construction — should be acceptable for developers to provide to secure variances to Boulder’s various development requirements, like building height..
Council also made a suggestion to mandate notifications of new development proposals get sent not only to property owners in the potentially impacted area, but also to renters and business owners. Brautigam said she and city staff will study whether such a rule would be possible to implement, and will inform council of her finding at the retreat.
Council will finalize its list of priorities for 2019 at the retreat.
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, email@example.com and twitter.com/samlounz.
Originally Published on January 9, 2019 at 12:43AM
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