Almost 5,600 Boulder citizens signed a petition to get questions no. 300 and 301 on the Nov. 3 ballot, but the initiatives face strong opposition from One Boulder, which has said the measures will “negatively impact jobs, small businesses and the economy.”
Led by former mayor Will Toor, One Boulder has collected $70,000 in donations from businesses and individuals, according to its latest financial release.
Proponent group Livable Boulder, on the other hand, has received just over $20,000 from 36 Boulder citizens.
Ballot question background
Cindy Carlisle, Stephen Haydel,* Kristen Momme, Sally Schneider and Sandra Snyder petitioned the Boulder City Council in July to ballot question no. 300, “Neighborhoods’ Right to Vote on Land Use Change Regulations,” on the 2015 Boulder ballot.
The measure stipulates that:
- The city council must define official Boulder neighborhoods for voting purposes.
- Each neighborhood must be allowed 60 days to petition to vote on any council-adopted change to residential land use regulations.
- If the city council does not reconsider or exclude petitioning neighborhoods from the change, the city must pay to hold an election in each petitioning neighborhood to either approve or reject the change.
- The change must only affect neighborhoods that have either not petitioned or have approved the change.
Land use regulations subject to the petition include increases to maximum allowable building height or occupancy and to zoning district designations within residential neighborhoods.
Former council members Gwen Dooley* and Allyn Feinberg,* as well as Ken Farmer, Barbara Kendall and John Price petitioned for ballot question no. 301, “New Development Shall Pay Its Own Way.”
The initiative would amend the Boulder Home Rule Charter to prevent the city from approving new development that does not fully pay for or otherwise offset the additional burdens the development puts on the city.
Burdens subject to the petition include police, fire-rescue, housing, parking, transportation and open space.
The initiative does allow the city council to exempt permanently affordable housing or publicly owned new developments from these requirements by a vote of six or more.
Council should “engage the citizens in a dialogue”
In an op-ed about gathering signatures for the ballot initiatives, Jeffrey Flynn and Karen Sandburg wrote, “We all kept hearing the same thing—Boulder residents are extremely dissatisfied with city council. They said our current council doesn’t listen to them, makes uninformed decisions, and pays little attention to public comments.”
Question no. 300 “provides a strong incentive for the city council to constructively engage the citizens in a dialogue about what they want,” Sandburg said.
Sandburg, a Livable Boulder steering committee member, says if the initiative passes, “it should make Boulder’s planning more responsive and cooperative, and the likelihood of any neighborhood actually having to use the referendum process very remote.”
Ballot question no. 301 is intended to implement Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policy no. 1.30, “Growth to Pay Fair Share of New Facility Costs,” which dictates:
Growth will be expected to pay its own way, with the requirement that new development pay the cost of providing needed facilities and an equitable share of services including affordable housing, and to mitigate negative impacts such as those to the transportation system.
Sandford said, “In addition to ensuring that our parks, libraries, rec centers, police and fire services are kept up to snuff,” approval of ballot question no. 301 “will prevent significant increases in traffic congestion, and provide considerable additional money to support the provision of more affordable housing.”
Initiatives “pit neighbor against neighbor”
Big names have come out in opposition to one or both initiatives, including Boulder Mayor Matt Applebaum; former mayors Linda Jourgensen, Bob Greenlee, Leslie Durgin, Mark Ruzzin and Will Toor; Boulder City Council members Andrew Shoemaker and Macon Cowles; and city council candidates Bill Rigler, Lauren “Cha Cha” Spinrad and Bob Yates.
In an op-ed opposing the measures, Cowles wrote, “They pit neighbor against neighbor, and neighborhoods against what a majority of citizens want. The environment, affordable housing, jobs and diversity will all suffer.”
Sandburg said Applebaum, Cowles and Shoemaker’s opposition isn’t unexpected.
“Cowles’ wife works for One Boulder,” she said.
“What’s more significant,” Sandburg continued, “is that the rest of the council has remained neutral. They are willing to let the citizens decide without trying to influence them.”
Sue Prant, One Boulder steering committee member and executive director of Community Cycles, said ballot question no. 300 “will make Boulder a gated community that will be for the very few. It will squeeze out the middle class and students.”
Ultimately, Prant said, the initiative is “really pitting older people against younger people,” and has the potential to chill the startup community.
“If you can’t afford a space to rent for your startup, it’s not gonna happen in Boulder. We want a community that is open to all,” Prant said.
Businesses make up about one-quarter of opponent One Boulder’s donors, but businesses have contributed more than half of its monetary donations, according to One Boulder’s latest financial release.
“Make no mistake,” wrote Greg Wilkerson, owner of Wilkerson Realty and Property Management. “The pro-growth consortium including the Chamber of Commerce, Better Boulder, Open Boulder, Boulder Tomorrow, etc., want more. More growth…and more unbridled profits for developers, at the expense of neighborhoods and palpable community benefit.”
Election Day 2015
*Livable Boulder steering committee: Ruth Blackmore, Gwen Dooley, Allyn Feinberg, Jeff Flynn, Bruce Goldstein, Stephen Haydel, Portia Husted, Karen Sandburg.
**One Boulder steering committee: Will Toor (president), Leslie Durgin (vice president), Bob Morehouse (treasurer), Regina Cowles, Angelique Espinoza, Regina Cowles, Sean Maher, Elisabeth Patterson, Dan Powers, Sue Prant, Andy Schultheiss, John Tayer.