CU Boulder South and Future Land Use Control

There was no unanimous agreement from speakers appearing at a Boulder County hearing Wednesday about the proposed development of the CU Boulder South property. But speakers were united on one point. KGNU’s Roz Brown says they
don’t want the county to surrender its control over long-range, land-use planning.

The discussion was part of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan update. The plan was adopted 40 years ago as a guide for how land use decisions are made and is revised every five years. Until now, the city council and its planning board and the county and its planning board have had a say in proposed development. But earlier this month, five of the nine Boulder City Council members said they want a change. They don’t think the county should have as much say in Boulder’s future expansion and would like the county to give up four-body control on some land parcels.

Mike Chriopolos says the four-body process isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing.
He says it’s not a city versus county issue but rather a good government, citizen engagement process that has contributed to a community that is the envy of the Front Range, the state and the nation.

“We’ll always have challenges and we’ll solve them through comprehensive planning, environmental preservation and citizen engagement as we have since 1977,” said Chriopolos.

Former State Legislator Dickey Lee Hullinghorst spoke on behalf of Plan Boulder County and said there’s never been a problem with the four-body process that should warrant a change.

“I am not aware of any major problem that we’ve had,” said Hullinghorst. “Sometimes it’s a little inconvenient but we plan for very important reasons.”

Another reason many were attending yesterday’s was to tell the commissioners what they’d like to see done about CU Boulder South – property where CU has proposed building a thousand housing units, eight academic buildings and recreational fields on land it owns at Boulder’s south entrance on U.S. 36. For that to happen CU needs a land-use designation change and city annexation. When that happens, CU says it will allow a major flood mitigation project to begin, designed to prevent a repeat of what happened to many neighbors like David McGuire during the 2013 flood.

“In 2013 my family and neighbors came close to losing our lives in the flood,” said McGuire. “We had an egress window in our basement that failed due to the rushing water and if anyone had been sleeping downstairs we would not have been able to get out. Everyday that we delay flood mitigation lives are in danger.”

Many argue a decision about the CU property is premature, and should be dealt with separately and not as part of the comprehensive plan update. Kristen Bjornsen asked the commissioners to retain the CU South property as open space.

“In 1996, CU purchased 220 acres of unincorporated land designated open space. The four governing bodies deliberately designated that property open space because that was always the intent. The reasons remain, including safer, more effective mitigation of a possible 500-year flood.”

The 500-year flood may never happen, but David Martus urged the Boulder County Commissioners not to pave over paradise.

“The peril that we face today is densification of existing developed areas and encroachment of areas that should be open space like CU South,” said Martus. “Almost all the public comments urge you not to change land use or slow down the process.”

Boulder County’s Planning Commission will resume debate on the issues July 19, followed by consideration and a vote by the Boulder County Commissioners on July 26th.


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