This election is a critically important one in Boulder’s history. If approved by voters, ballot questions 300 and 301 will fundamentally change our city charter and how our local government functions for generations to come. Because they are worded so vaguely, no one can say with certainty what their impacts will be. However both supporters and opponents agree they will dramatically slow growth and drive up the cost of doing business in Boulder.
Last week we surveyed the 400+ members of Downtown Boulder, Inc. on the two measures. These are not a bunch of rich developers but mostly small business owners who run coffee shops, retail stores and restaurants. They include accountants, architects, massage therapists and a host of other service providers. They are people who have invested their lives into making our downtown one of the most vibrant and successful in the nation.
When asked if they support ballot measure 300 which would give 60+ neighborhoods in Boulder the right to hold special elections and veto land use changes approved by city council, they overwhelmingly said “No.” Sixty-one percent oppose the measure; 20 percent are in favor. Some of the survey comments on measure 300:
“What a debacle. This would essentially create 60+ HOAs (Home owner associations).”
“This measure would entirely supplant our representative form of local government. The good of the city must be paramount to the interests of each neighborhood.”
“Pure NIMBYism. Boulder is better off making decisions as a community, not 60 or 70 special interest groups.”
On the question of measure 301 and creating new fees for development, almost 40 percent of respondents are not yet familiar enough to make up their minds. However of those who voiced an opinion, 81 percent oppose the measure with 19 percent in favor. Some of the survey feedback on 301:
“Another subjective and arbitrary cost to the already high cost of business in Boulder.”
“People need to understand that developers don’t really pay all these extra fees. The tenants who live and work in the buildings ultimately pay them. That is me and it sucks.”
“The language is so fuzzy, who could possibly interpret it? A recipe for litigation.”
So there you have it. While our DBI members are concentrated downtown, they represent a diversity of small businesses and share much in common with their peers across Boulder. They know from experience that Boulder has some of the strictest growth limits in the country and the highest development fees in Colorado. These fees already ensure that growth pays its way and they do indeed get passed on to tenants.
It is easy for advocates of 300 and 301 to point to Google and Boulder Junction and imply that similar development is coming soon to your neighborhood. Not true. There are already many safeguards in place to prevent unwanted encroachment in residential areas. The real impact will be to drive up costs for thousands of small businesses and eventually drive many of them out of Boulder.
Last week, the board of directors for Downtown Boulder, Inc. reviewed the survey results of their members and voted 19 to zero to oppose measures 300 and 301. If you care about maintaining a vibrant and sustainable local business economy in Boulder, join us in voting no on these two ballot issues.
Sean Maher is the CEO of the Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District and Downtown Boulder, Inc. Views expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect the position of either organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.