In advancing a framework for the future of the CU South parcel, the Boulder City Council stressed a desire to study flood risk and mitigation on the site before solidifying annexation and development plans there.
On Tuesday night, after a long-awaited deliberation on the controversial property — 308 acres of University of Colorado-owned land in the southeast Boulder floodplain — the council voted 8-1 to approve a new land-use designation for CU South that allows for potential new development.
Over decades to come, the university hopes to build 1,125 housing units for students and employees, athletic fields and academic buildings on that acreage, and, for CU, the council’s vote represents the clearing of a significant hurdle to fulfillment of those ambitions.
This is the first time I’ve expressed my concern about the CU South Campus property. I have tried to keep an open mind about the needs of the… university especially for additional student and faculty housing. I have also supported the need for flood mitigation work on behalf of residents who have suffered from the 2013 flood. But, the overly ambitious plan for housing and academic building development seems totally out of character with this property.This is one of the last precious Boulder resources where nature and wildlife still thrive. You just have to look at Chautauqua to see what pressures humans have put on the natural world. There is just something wrong about taking away living space from the creatures that make up the natural world.
Back almost 30 years ago, when I was on the City Council, we engaged in a very detailed study of the major drainages that flow through Boulder, and the likely damage that could result from floods. Our objective was to come up with appropriate risk mitigation standards… Out of this study came Boulder’s regulatory standard using the 100-year and 500-year flood maps and also the high hazard areas, which were based on such flows.
Setting the rules based on these standards was a compromise. The council did end up requiring some buildings that were at very serious risk to be torn down. But buildings in areas at somewhat lower risk were left in place, even though they never should have been built in the first place.
The current regulations need some serious updating. First, they are not appropriate for areas where development can be avoided; they were created for already-developed areas, and so compromise the level of protection. Second, the frequency/intensity forecasts are really just educated guesses because the historic events are so infrequent, so they form a weak basis for doing quantitative risk assessment. Third, and critically important, the climate is changing, so we can expect more and more intense flood events.
In the CU South debate, there’s one pesky fact that keeps getting buried. Well, actually, there are dozens, but the one that boggles my mind the most is this: In 1996, CU knowingly purchased 220 acres of unincorporated, open space-designated land on the South Boulder Creek floodplain…
Now CU is demanding that the city and county remove the open space designation, annex the land, and give CU almost carte blanche to build whatever it would like. This is a little bit like someone buying a chicken and demanding City Council transform it into a goose that lays golden eggs. Except CU wants a whole flock of golden geese…
People with comments and suggestions about proposals for major updates to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan can present their arguments during a joint Wednesday afternoon public hearing by the Boulder County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.
4 Body Review Changes
CU South – Flood Mitigation
The most important and time-tested component of American democracy is the concept of checks and balances. It ensures the interests of a few never override the values and interests of the larger community. It protects against corruption. It protects against tyranny.On June 13, Boulder City Council’s nine members met to contemplate eliminating Boulder County’s most important system of checks and balances: the BVCP’s four-body review process for land-use changes. Boulder’s four governing bodies are the county commissioners, county Planning Commission, City Council, and city Planning Board.
When the County Planning Commission (CPC) recently — and wisely — voted to maintain the existing density and reject Boulder County Housing Authority’s overreach at Twin Lakes, it sent shock waves through the halls of power in Boulder County — and the city. How dare this governing body listen to the people they serve? How dare they defy the back-door power plays of the county?
Boulder County Planning Commission would lose veto power on key parcels; County commissioners would not.
City Council members, a slight majority of whom would like to limit Boulder County’s control over future city expansion, appear to have come to some agreement on a proposed revision to the procedure by which city and county cooperate on long-range, land-use planning.
In an unofficial straw-poll vote taken late Tuesday night, the council supported a compromise that would let the Board of County Commissioners retain veto power over changes to parcels in categories known as Area II and the Area III-Planning Reserve.
However, the Boulder County Planning Commission would lose its voice in those two areas, under the straw-poll plan.