The following letter was sent by PBC Co-chair Pat Shanks, on his own behalf, to the Boulder City Council on May 17, 2011.
Dear City Council Members-
I am speaking for myself and am not representing PLAN-Boulder County, which has not had time to consider these issues because of the rushed time-frame.
I have reviewed the materials available in the staff report and on the hotline regarding Charter Initiatives being considered for the ballot this Fall. These include (among others):
- extending the relaxation of building height limits so that peaked roofs or facades can be built above the 55 ft limit in the Boulder Junction area,
- require 75 rather than 25 in-person signatures to qualify City Council candidates,
- limit the time period for signature collection for ballot initiatives, and
- legalize executive sessions under certain conditions.
In general, I believe it would be a serious mistake to place any of these on the ballot this fall. The change in the height limits is ill-conceived and poorly formulated, 2 and 3 (above) are trivial and will be considered elitist, and the people have already spoken in opposition to executive sessions in 2008. These proposed charter issues will detract and distract from critical issues on the ballot to guide our clean energy future, which represent the most important effort the City has taken on in many years.
The height limit change is most concerning. This potentially very complicated issue has not been studied by staff and has not been discussed or acted-on by Planning Board. This is a complicated and confusing issue, and it will certainly create controversy and perhaps an acrimonious battle. Developers have always had the choice of designing “interesting” building within the height limits for the various zones, but they commonly choose to maximize square footage and profit by building voluminous, massive, flat-topped buildings. Allowing exceptions for parapets and other architectural features WILL result in taller buildings, but I have little hope that it will encourage any better design. The 1998 charter change certainly did not create better designs in any of the recently developed 29th Street buildings in the Crossroads area. As one example, the 29 North apartments now under development on 30th falls within the existing height exception area (allowing parapets, etc.) and yet no “interesting’ building design resulted. If the City wants to weigh-in on building design, then it should strengthen design review or implement form-based zoning. Allowing increased height will only produce taller undesirable buildings, and an election battle will certainly distract from important clean energy initiatives on the ballot.
I urge you not to place any of these proposed charter initiatives on the ballot this year. Several of them have already failed and will likely fail again. Voters will be annoyed and will tend to check NO, NO, NO….. on all the City initiatives.