I hope this editorial helps educate Boulder residents who will vote on these two sound-good but in reality harmful initiatives: Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote and New Development Shall Pay Its Own Way, ballot initiatives 300 and 301, respectively.
The fact is that neighborhoods already profoundly influence not only the end result of proposed developments, but whether or not a development happens at all.
Baseline Zero is an example of neighbors preventing a three-acre development at Baseline and 27th Way. The developers cited “opposition from neighbors” in withdrawing their project. Wonderland Creek townhomes at 28th and Kalmia provides an example of neighbor input substantially changing a project. Initially slated to be 54 townhomes, neighbor input reduced them to 41, and altered the exterior of the townhomes, adding costs that made these intended moderate-income homes more expensive. In the Goss-Grove neighborhood, residents successfully lobbied the city, against the wishes of Naropa, to down-zone its neighborhood in order to prevent further density.
The point is that neighbors already have tremendous influence over developments. Prop 300 divides Boulder into 66 neighborhoods, where 10 percent of any neighborhood would have the power to force a referendum that could effectively veto a proposed development in that neighborhood. This is really a back door to prevent any development from happening at all, ever, in the future of Boulder.
Similarly, developers do already pay their way. In the Wonderland Creek example, developers are paying 13 percent of the cost of the project to the city of Boulder in fees and the building of four Habitat for Humanity homes. This 13 percent is more than double the requirements of most municipalities. In Denver, by comparison, these fees average 6 percent. Prop 301 will prevent any development in Boulder because no business can affordably take on the extra cost for which this initiative asks. The initiative is not even clear on what the additional costs actually are, leaving the details to be fought over in court, which will cost the city and all of us who live here.
Props 300 and 301 are opposed by a broad-based constituency that transcends party lines, including Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists and business people, from Rollie Heath, Macon Cowles and Will Toor to George Karakehian and Bob Greenlee, the current mayor and five former mayors, all nine current city council members and all but four of the 17 candidates running for city council, all of whom want Boulder to continue to be a vibrant, diverse, forward-looking community.
Net net, these ballot initiatives are thinly-veiled efforts to end all new development in Boulder. And while that may sound good on the surface, and will help home values increase for those already here, approval could actually throw the city into economic recession as new construction grinds to a halt and the city forgoes tens of millions in development fees. And because approval of either measure will prevent new buildings from being built for businesses, arts, restaurants, students, lower-income families, and people who want to live near their work, 300 and 301 will effectively make Boulder a less diverse place, full of old rich white people who will be the only ones that can afford to live here.
Citylab, a national publication and sister to The Atlantic, publicly scathes initiatives 300 and 301as “mega NIMBYism at work” explaining “if Boulder passes ballot issues #300 and #301, growth won’t be a question. These measures would seal the city under a dome… What happens next follows an established script. Prices for homes in Boulder will skyrocket, to the benefit of incumbent homeowners and to the massive detriment of others less fortunate — low-income renters, students at the University of Colorado, young families who’d like to make their home in Boulder, retirees on fixed incomes who can’t afford the property taxes, people forced to commute into the city for work, and so on. From outside the dome, Boulder will come to look like San Francisco, with its untenable housing crisis. (Unless employers decide to leave the dome for good.)”
These initiatives constitute permanent changes to our city charter. If we vote for them, it won’t matter whom we elect to city council because their hands will be tied.
Please vote No on these sound-good but truly harmful initiatives: 300 and 301.
Lisa Drake lives in Boulder.