Provide Your Input on How the Proposed City-Wide "Downzoning" Will Affect Your Property or Business

Proposed Boulder Ordinance Limits Office Uses to 25% of Floor Area in Business Zones (BR, BMS, TB); Hundreds of offices will become Non-conforming Uses

Updated September 6, 2019

ISSUE UPDATE

[President's Post from Boulder Chamber President & CEO John Tayer, September 4, 2019]

Yes, we want the Opportunity Zone moratorium lifted and, no, we don't share the same perspective with this City Council majority on the need to reduce jobs in our community, but we do all want the best outcomes for Boulder.

We thank them, along with City of Boulder staff, for heeding our warnings last night regarding the potentially damaging impacts on our local businesses from proposed use table amendments. Specifically, as Public Affairs Director Andrea Meneghel noted in his testimony, we were very concerned that "[t]he economic impacts have not yet been studied . . . Don’t underestimate the impact that going through use review could have on small businesses.”

So, we have more work to do to address our community goals, including special needs associated with effort to keep Twenty Ninth Street thriving. In the words of Councilmember Mary Dolo Young, "One of the big concerns we are hearing about is small business and the potential loss of those businesses.”

We agree and the Boulder Chamber is ready to roll up our sleeves in the effort to get it right! Read more about last night's Opportunity Zone and use tables discussion in this BizWest story by Lucas High.

More information on this issue and previous developments are detailed below.

Summary

The City of Boulder is considering significant  changes to its zoning codes that could “downzone” thousands of properties in our city. The revised standards will apply to zoning districts city-wide, affecting over 22,000 properties. Substantive changes that will be made within the Opportunity Zone will affect 3,173 properties city-wide. The proposed changes will result in more restrictions to allowed uses and will increase required review processes.

The zoning changes are occurring as a result of lifting the current development moratorium in the Opportunity Zone (the area between 28th to 55th Streets and from Iris to Arapahoe Avenue). But these zoning changes, occurring under the context of updating  “use table standards,” will now apply to all zoning districts within the city limits that are being changed, including and beyond the Opportunity Zone.

Click here to download the City staff's packet on the Opportunity Zone moratorium and see Attachment F for the proposed changes to Use Standards.

What's Changing

The proposed ordinance limits offices to 25% of a building (or 50% if permanently affordable housing is on site). Any existing buildings over 25% office would be considered a non-conforming use and the office use can only be expanded with city approval of a Non-conforming Use Review.

What This Means

Currently, the amount of office space allowed in a given building in certain business zones is unlimited.  See “City Zoning Background”, below, for information about Boulder’s zoning districts.

At the direction of City Council to mitigate Boulder’s “jobs:housing imbalance”, planning staff has proposed limiting office uses in those business zones. The proposed ordinance would cap the percentage of office uses per building at 25% of floor area, and reclassify all office uses (including medical/dental) as a new “Limited Use – L17.”  Here are other key provisions of the ordinance:

  • Existing buildings with more than 25% office space could maintain that space, but the offices would be considered a non-conforming use.
  • Existing office space exceeding 25% of the building area could only be expanded with approval through a Non-conforming Use Review (a process of several months and substantial cost, with no certainty of approval).

City Zoning Background

City zoning districts regulate land uses and development for each property in Boulder. Zoning districts also designate residential, commercial, industrial, public and agricultural areas. As described on the city’s website, Boulder’s zoning code is broken into three basic elements, or modules, that specify use, form and density requirements for each district:

  • Use- establishes the uses that are permitted, conditionally permitted and prohibited, as well as uses that may be permitted through a use review approval.  Allowed uses are tabulated in the city’s Use Table.
  • Form - specifies the physical parameters for development, such as setbacks, building coverage, height and special building design characteristics.
  • Intensity - establishes the density of development including lot sizes, dwelling units per acre, and floor area ratios, among other measures of density.

In 2018, the city’s planning staff was directed to revise Boulder’s Use Table to better align with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, which calls for more mixed-use neighborhoods to foster more walkable areas where people can live, work and shop.

In July 2019 the Planning Board unanimously approved staff’s recommended revisions to the Use Table and referred them to City Council.  These revisions include the new Limited Use classification restricting office uses to no more than 25% of a building’s floor area in the city’s business zones.  The revisions are scheduled for discussion at the City Council’s meeting on September 3.

The Boulder Chamber's Stance

The Boulder Chamber previously submitted this letter urging City Council to accept the Planning Board’s unanimous recommendation to lift the Opportunity Zone moratorium:

As stated in the City staff’s packet to address the Opportunity Zone Moratorium, the following changes present significant impacts to existing properties and we further ask City Council to address these issues:

  • Limiting Office Space to 25% of a Building - This new regulation will impact more than 200 parcels. Existing buildings that currently exceed this limitation will be considered a non-conforming use and will require more extensive review to make certain improvements and expansions of office use.
  • Limit Office Uses in Residential Zones - Limiting small offices in residential zones does not support Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policies related to creating 15-minute walkable neighborhoods and other policies supporting mixed-use planning and pedestrian uses.

To read Boulder Chamber President & CEO John Tayer's take on these ordinance updates in the Daily Camera, click here (subscription required).

What Should You Do? Make Your Voice Heard!

It is critical for your voice to be heard about the impacts that adopting these proposed changes will have on your business and the community. We urge you to reach out to our City Council members, send a statement to City Council or attend the public hearing on October 1st to voice your perspective.

Email your input to City Council in advance of the October 1st Public Hearing - send your feedback to council@bouldercolorado.gov.

For more information: Call or email Boulder Chamber Director of Public Affairs, Andrea Meneghel at (303) 938-2077 or Andrea.Meneghel@boulderchamber.com.

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