No Surprise, Council Moves to Kill Downtown Development

by Osman Parvez

From the Daily Camera
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.
Completely ignoring soft market conditions, City Council continues to do their best to damage the real estate market and end the downtown renaissance. And I thought President Bush was clueless.
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.
Reasonable? This is what it sounds like to me:

But City Councilwoman Espinoza disagreed. There are plenty of other things elected officials should be worrying about, 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.”
Espinoza, I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for having the courage to vote against the rest of the council.

Remember, the 55 foot limit is in the City Charter. We already have many restrictions that developers have to surmount before building to that limit and nobody is pushing for higher buildings right now. The market is struggling, even downtown. So at a time when the economy is in the worst condition in 30 years, does adding even more restrictions make sense?

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  1. Osman -

    Agreed that this is stupid in general - regulations should be simple and objective (limit the height to x feet, leave it at that) not subject to endless bureaucratic obstruction. This sort of thing just wastes everyone's time.

    Not sure I care if it "hurts" the real estate market, though. Lower prices would benefit some people (potential buyers) and not others (sellers). I own a home in Boulder, but its paper value isn't particularly of concern to me, so all things being equal, I'd like to see lower property values, if anything.

  2. I'm confused: Why is it bad for the real estate market to limit development? Isn't there way too much commercial space available right now? Too many preposterously priced condos going begging downtown? They ought to knock some down--that would get prices/rents moving in the right direction, no?

  3. Fair enough Walt. Lower prices doesn't "hurt" the real estate market, per se. If it triggers an increase in foreclosures, *that* will hurt communities because of all that comes with it. Another post, for another time.

    We can agree that regulations should be simple and objective. Instead, council is making subjective and arbitrary attempts to change regulations and stop projects that have already been approved.

    If the regulations need to be tweaked, so be it. The proper way is to craft reasonable and objective regulations, most importantly giving the community time to adjust.

    I have a problem with their "it's an emergency" approach.

  4. Anon,
    Maybe I wasn't clear. I'm for efficiently regulations which govern the market. If the market is regulated properly, it makes the decision of what gets built.

    If a property owner works within the existing framework of regulation, and their project already is approved, government has no business reversing that decision after the fact.

    Is it bad to limit development? No, of course not. It's bad to make knee jerk decisions that can have massive and long term repercussions.


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