October 14, 2017 Boulder City Council Dear Council members:
PLAN-Boulder County urges you to deny the new annexation request for the Hogan-Pancost property that is now before you. The 6-1 vote of the Planning Board should be a strong indication of the inadvisability of going forward with this development in the South Boulder Creek floodplain. Developments in the floodplain, particularly those including housing for vulnerable populations, like seniors, should always be viewed with skepticism. We should have moved this property from Area II to Area III in the most recent BVCP revision, but, unfortunately we failed to do so. PLAN-Boulder listened carefully to the presentations at the 10/10/17 meeting. It is too bad that they did not include the groundwater presentations, since groundwater is the most complex issue, and one that has vexed the adjoining neighbors for years.
We have to admit that this is a better proposal than some of its predecessors, since the developer is proposing to take some positive actions on wetlands, as well as including a significant amount of affordable housing. Nonetheless, it is important to note that high-functioning wetlands on a third to a half of this property were deliberately destroyed by the landowners (at the time) on two separate occasions, one in 1994 and the other in 2008, using excavators, bulldozing, and the addition of a large amount of fill. The second incident occurred when what appears to be the current ownership group had acquired the property. The county issued stop orders, but failed to enforce restoration. Then-mayor Shawn McGrath wrote to the county commissioners, “On behalf of Boulder City Council, I would like to express the city’s serious concerns and disappointment….we urge you to require restitution and restoration of the property to its state prior to the unlawful grading.”
You are now being asked to reward the developers for their illegal actions. Neighbors from the Greenbelt Meadows neighborhood testified that their own subdivision should never have been allowed. They are probably right. There is nothing that can be done about that mistake, but we should at least learn from it, as well as from the 2013 flood, and we should avoid making things worse. This area has a very high water table, and this means that compaction and fill activities in one segment of the area change the subsurface flows, making one location less permeable, and increasing volumes and flows elsewhere. This is the obvious explanation for the increase in flooding of basements reported by the neighbors after the construction of the soccer fields at the East Boulder Recreation center. They are rightly concerned that their problems will be exacerbated by the proposed development.
While we have not yet seen the staff or developer’s presentations on groundwater, the presentation on flooding was not encouraging. The developer’s engineer was positive that there would be no deleterious effects for the neighbors, but when it came to the details, none were provided. He did a lot of hand waving. Staff was also less than forthcoming about 2013 flood damage. The recent disaster in Houston has once again demonstrated the wisdom of preserving as many wetlands as possible. The frequency of catastrophic flooding is predicted to significantly increase in the future, and Boulder’s 2013 flood was not nearly as severe as those we should expect, because the flow from the mouths of the major canyons did not reach flood stage. This proposed annexation is still not ready for prime time. Council should reject the annexation request and should not encourage the developer to return with another proposal. None of the ones that have been made over the course of 27 years were good ideas, and there is no reason to believe that situation will change.
Yours truly, Allyn Feinberg and Raymond Bridge, Co-chairs, PLAN-Boulder County