Council continues to look at ways to increase the cost of development

Posted by Greg Smith on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 at 7:00am.

I think the Boulder Council may have missed their Econ 101 class as we see them continue to increase the cost of development and housing in the city of Boulder.  Below is the result of the vote at last nights council meeting regarding modification to the height limits in Boulder from the "Daily Camera"

From the Daily Camera Dec 17, 2009

Boulder’s elected leaders next year will take another look at what kind of “community benefit” — such as affordable housing — developers should be required to include if they want to put up buildings taller than 35 feet.

Builders now are allowed to go up to 35 feet in much of Downtown Boulder. Building higher than that — up to the 55-foot limit set forth in the city’s charter — requires permission from the city’s Planning Board.

The City Council voted 7-1 late Tuesday night to ask the city’s planning staff to start working in the second half of next year to come up with possible changes to the circumstances in which developers are allowed to exceed 35 feet and go up to the 55-foot ceiling.

City Councilwoman Angelique Espinoza voted against the motion. City Councilwoman Susan Osborne was absent.

Boulder resident Gwen Dooley encouraged the City Council to “move forward as soon as possible.”

Elected leaders, she said, should change the way they think of the space above buildings more than 35 feet off the ground.

“I’d like you to think of a little something radical ... and think of that airspace as public airspace,” she said.

City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said she thinks that’s a reasonable way of looking at the issue. If developers are going to be allowed to build higher than 35 feet, she said, they ought to give something back to the community.

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“I think that truly is public space, and that ... people in the community have a right to have a say in terms of what is built in that 20 feet of public space,” she said.

The council will try to define what constitutes “community benefit,” which could include requiring developers to provide more affordable housing.

Several officials on Tuesday said figuring out new rules for height — and for the character of new development in Boulder in general — is urgent. As the city deliberates new policies, City Councilman Macon Cowles said, new development projects will be proposed. And if they look anything like high-profile projects of the last few years, he said, that will be a problem.

“The new stuff is not being well-received by the citizens,” Cowles said.

But City Councilwoman Espinoza disagreed. There are plenty of other things elected officials should be worrying about, she said.

“Construction provides a lot of jobs, and I don’t want to be the person who puts somebody out of work before Christmas,” she said. “I can understand that many of you have constituencies whose main concern is height and (density) bonuses and not changing Boulder too much. I have yet to hear a person who is a peer of mine come to speak to that issue. ... I’m not with you on this as the most important thing to do. I think we spend way too much time on this stuff.”

The City Council is also debating whether to revisit a decade-old policy of giving “density bonuses” to downtown developers who include residential units in their projects.

The bonuses allow developers to put up larger buildings, but critics on the City Council say those rules have resulted in a proliferation of expensive downtown luxury condos and very little affordable housing.

City Councilman Matthew Appelbaum said he’d rather elected leaders move quickly to re-examine the density bonuses, which are granted automatically.

“At least with height, there’s some discretion,” he said.

The idea of revisiting those bonuses drew praise Tuesday night from members of the nonprofit PLAN-Boulder County, and criticism from members of Downtown Boulder Inc.

Downtown Boulder Inc. board member George Karakehian urged the City Council not to change the rules too quickly.

“We ask instead that we follow our mutual, respectful and well-established process for engagement,” he said.

Greg Smith

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