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Citizen’s Conditions for the Annexation of CU South
Charter Amendment Petition Drive
Boulder, Colorado is one of the most flood prone cities in America and the South Boulder Creek watershed is one of the highest risk watersheds in Boulder, with the 2013 flood on South Boulder Creek resulting in significant damage to downstream residents. Flood experts, including the internationally esteemed Dr. Gilbert White, have been telling us for years that we should be planning for more extreme flooding events. His 2001 report for the City about CU South titled “South Boulder Creek, Boulder, CO – Independent Review Panel Report” recommended planning “for floods up to 500-year frequency”. The current plan moved forward by City Council for 100-year flood mitigation fails to meet this measure of protection and hands Boulder citizens the bill for in-filling CU’s gravel pit to allow development in the floodplain.
Because the property owner, the University of Colorado, has rejected any flood mitigation until this site is annexed for future development, PLAN-Boulder views the City’s flood protection project and the annexation of CU South as inextricably linked. PLAN-Boulder believes that annexation and development of CU South should be treated the same as any other annexation of similar magnitude in Boulder, through an enforceable annexation agreement, vetted through a robust public process, which ensures that the University, or any future owner of the property, be responsible for infrastructure and transportation costs necessary to offset impacts of the development and is consistent with Boulder’s development regulations.
Years of presentations by local experts using logic, reason and science have failed to adequately influence City Council and City staff. Because the City Council and City staff seem willing to essentially do a blind annexation of the CU South property, without a clearly delineated development plan and commitment by the University to pay the costs of the annexation and development, as well as what has been an inadequately considered flood protection plan due to the University’s resistance, PLAN-Boulder and our partners Save South Boulder have prepared a Charter Amendment that will define the annexation agreement for CU South. PLAN-Boulder’s position is and always has been that any development beyond flood protection in the South Boulder Creek floodplain should be avoided; however, if the city council persists in moving forward with annexation and development of the CU South floodplain, these are the critical conditions for an annexation agreement:
- includes a management plan for floods up to the 500-year frequency as defined by FEMA, both on site, upstream, and downstream of CU South, and that includes removal of the existing levee;
- requires that the University of Colorado or any future owner or owners provide or pay for all public infrastructure and services, both on and off site, necessary to serve any on site development on CU South and to prevent any diminution of current levels of service or service standards for off site city residents and businesses as reasonably determined and calculated;
- limits development of buildings to 87 contiguous acres of the land, 87 acres being the amount of land allowed for development on this land in the 1990 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan that was in effect when the University of Colorado purchased the property. The location of these 87 acres must be out of the floodplain, and must not interfere with the establishment of flood protection required in the Agreement.
- the agreement and any development allowed on the property shall conform to the requirements of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, the City Charter, and the Boulder Revised Code, including development review processes;
- includes a plan for development that identifies the allowed uses, square footage by use, and location of all future development and infrastructure;
- heights of buildings shall be limited to 55 feet as defined and regulated by the Boulder City Charter and the Boulder Revised Code.
- requires that housing that is part of the development plan be permanently affordable to low- medium- and middle-income residents, as defined by the City of Boulder’s Affordable Housing Program.
An annexation agreement that includes these elements is the only mechanism available to legally bind the University and the City to follow their commitments. Indeed, until a development plan is proposed, impacts identified, public comment received, and commitments to pay for the necessary mitigation specified, moving forward with the annexation that the University is insisting be a precursor to inadequate flood protection is fiscally, environmentally, and socially irresponsible.
It will take approximately 9,000 signatures from registered City of Boulder voters to get on the ballot in 2020, a heavy lift. PLAN will be working with Save South Boulder and other supporters to organize collecting signatures. We want to put as much effort and energy into this as possible to keep pressure on the City Council and CU, and also to try to hold off any final decisions as long as possible by any legal means. If necessary, we can come back next year under more advantageous circumstances.
Here is how you can volunteer to help.
We realize that the pandemic may make it very difficult to collect 9,000 City of Boulder voters to sign up by August 5, the state’s deadline and it’s going to take a big team to get this done. State law requires that people be registered voters in Boulder and sign up in person on a legally approved petition. You’ve probably seen tables in parks and shopping centers around town set up to get signatures for various ballot initiatives for November with special pens and social distancing practices. We need volunteers to safely and carefully collect signatures in their own neighborhoods, in front of their own homes, and in key parks, at busy intersections, and at trail heads.
It has been nearly 25 years since CU purchased the Flatirons gravel mine property now known as CU South. Boulder should heed the advice of experts, from Gilbert White to Ruth Wright to Gordon McCurry, and to not proceed with an inadequate flood mitigation plan that puts the interests of the University above the interests of the citizens (and utility rate payers) of Boulder. It will take a number of years for all the regulatory approvals to be obtained for a well designed flood plan, so there will be adequate time for a real examination of the details of an annexation agreement with the appropriate involvement of Boulder citizens. This would also allow for in-person engagement of the public rather than the limited engagement offered by the virtual environment we are in now.
Now is the time to make our voices heard on CU South and to encourage City Council to stand up to CU’s bullying tactics.Thank you very much for your support and assistance.