Boulder Chamber Guiding Principles
We support comprehensive local and regional infrastructure investment and community enhancements that meet the needs of Boulder businesses, sustain economic vitality, and support the general health and welfare of our community.
We support transportation infrastructure investments and programs that provide effective and convenient mobility options for Boulder’s workforce. Regional and local transportation networks, accommodating all travel modes from the personal automobile to bicycles, are key requirements for the community’s economic, social, and environmental health.
Achieving our housing goals will rely on creative financing and development strategies, programs and policies that expand diversity, and availability of housing choices for our economically diverse workforce.
Land use development decisions should meet a variety of social, cultural, and environmental goals while balancing our community’s economic vitality and the appropriate expectations of property owners.
Issue Areas And Positions
Effective regional and local transportation networks are key requirements for our community’s economic vitality and environmental health. Due to the cost of living and limited housing options in Boulder, our local economy depends on a workforce consisting of a significant number of daily in-commuters that rely on our transportation system and services. Acknowledging this reality, the guiding vision for our local and regional transportation networks should ensure balanced planning for all modes of travel --automobiles as well as other alternative options. We encourage stakeholder engagement strategies for future planning efforts that include the direct involvement of local business organizations, like the Boulder Chamber, and our regional coalition of private sector representatives, the Northwest Chamber Alliance.
In particular, the Boulder Chamber advocates for the following goals in different facets of our transportation system:
TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE & PROGRAMMATIC PLANNING
- Ensure balanced planning for all modes of travel and for a broad range of users that is responsive to the opportunities and challenges associated with increased development density, including parking availability, expanded transit options, improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and business access.
- Expand the capacity of creative transit and transportation services that are destination oriented and designed to effectively connect our workforce from where they live to where they work.
- Support safety measures for all modes of our transportation system.
- Develop multi-modal investment strategies for all travel modes that maintain the effectiveness of regional and local corridors.
- Locally, we must support the preservation and expansion of the RTD Eco-Pass or similar bulk purchase/insurance model transit access programs, implement improvements identified in the East Arapahoe Transportation Plan and advance the implementation of Quiet Zones.
INNOVATIONS IN ADVANCED MOBILITY
- Regional and local initiatives should incorporate strategies for advancing innovative mobility solutions that have been identified in regional efforts such as the Mobility Choice Blueprint.
- We must implement innovative pilot programs that include public/private sector partnerships. These pilots will identify immediate solutions for first- and final-mile connectivity issues, and will develop multi-modal, micro-transit networks for our major employment centers.
TRANSPORTATION FINANCING & INVESTMENTS
- Advocate for regional mobility investments for SH 119/Diagonal Highway, SH 7/East Arapahoe and continue advocating for delivery of the promised FasTracks investments.
- Establish sustainable state, regional, and local transportation funding mechanisms that balance the needs of all modes and avoid imposing an undue cost burden on business.
- Advocate for an equitable distribution of transportation funds across Colorado that secures a fair share of resources for our region and allows for the flexibility to invest in all travel modes.
- Define specific strategies for meeting Boulder’s mobility goals for businesses and residents through the Transportation Master Plan update while upholding funding principles of equity and shared benefits throughout the community.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber is supportive of collaborative local and regional transportation planning and investments for all modes of travel that make travel to and from work, and across town, convenient whether driving, taking a bus, biking or walking.
Communication infrastructure is vital to support our economic, educational, and social needs; it also creates jobs. We support the City’s effort to partner with public institutions and the private technology sector to establish this infrastructure, because:
- High-speed broadband Internet infrastructure is a critical service that allows Boulder’s economy to remain regionally competitive.
- Ubiquitous access to broadband infrastructure increases market competition, which is a positive element of a vibrant and innovative economy.
- Ubiquitous broadband has been demonstrated to provide communities with higher speed service at lower costs, which are both public and private sector goals.
- It is critical for accommodating co-working spaces as well as other innovative commercial and residential uses.
- Broadband infrastructure facilitates the development of innovative transportation infrastructure capabilities and the accommodation of advanced transportation demand management systems.
Consistent with previously stated intentions, we expect the City of Boulder to give strong consideration to private sector or public/private partnerships as it considers the most efficient and effective option for building out its broadband system.
The opportunity to offer next-generation Internet services is a clear business advantage that our community is eager to leverage. We would all benefit from publicly available fiber-optic infrastructure and more economical, higher-capacity broadband services. Not only is it an essential component of community infrastructure, but it is also necessary for the integration of advanced mobility and transportation demand management technologies. Further, with increased infrastructure, key industries like health care and transportation can evolve exponentially in the services they offer to community members.
Given these critical benefits, we will advocate for the City to explore financing and building -out a community-wide broadband network on its own independent merits, separate from the delivery of other infrastructure systems that are subject to uncertainty, such as a municipal electric utility.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber continues to support implementing citywide broadband infrastructure with urgency and encourages City Council to rapidly advance the build out of a city-wide network, recognizing efficiencies through public/private partnerships in order to provide ubiquitous access. This is critical to maintaining Boulder’s competitiveness and high quality of life.
It is vital that we expand the availability of diverse housing options for Boulder’s working individuals and families to maintain Boulder as an economically vibrant community. The Boulder Chamber will work collaboratively with housing providers and developers, community development experts, workforce representatives, City and County staff, elected officials, housing finance professionals, and other advocates to advance innovative yet practical strategies and solutions for Boulder’s economically diverse workforce.
Strategies and programs to create and maintain a broader and more diverse mix of housing types - rental and ownership, permanently affordable, market rate, multi-unit, semi or fully detached – to meet the housing needs of low, moderate and middle income individuals and families in Boulder.
Innovative housing solutions that are in proximity to support services - such as transit, commercial/retail, parking, and recreational opportunities--and reflect the needs of Boulder’s local businesses and workforce.
Mixed-use, higher-density development that incorporates a substantial amount of affordable and middle-income workforce housing in proximity to multi-modal corridors.
Regulatory adjustments that create new residential infill opportunities through additional dwelling units, owner accessory units, and lot splitting.
Providing more live/work options for creative professionals, including the creation of special residential zoning for artists within designated arts districts.
Creation of smaller, higher-density innovative housing products, which includes tiny homes and accessory dwelling units.
Revising/removing the land use designations, zoning, and regulatory barriers on specific areas where our community should incentivize new housing.
The examination of policies and/or incentives that promote innovative housing solutions, such as occupancy limits, setback, and density adjustments, and allowance for co-housing and co-operative housing.
Deploy strategies and methods that generate housing products which are conducive to retaining younger members of our workforce, both in the character of housing developments, and at a price that is affordable to those who are in the early career stages.
Implement innovative methods for reducing the impact of high land costs, such as land leases and land trusts.
The Boulder Chamber will identify and encourage the implementation of additional efficiencies and improvements in the housing review and approval processes and reduction of regulatory requirements for affordable and workforce housing proposals. We also support incentives for projects that incorporate high-quality design that contributes to community character.
The Boulder Chamber will analyze housing finance options and opportunities and, as appropriate, advocate for the adoption/implementation of these mechanisms at the state and local levels. We will also encourage creative opportunities for businesses and individuals to invest in development that meets our community’s workforce housing goals.
Individually and as part of the Northwest Chamber Alliance, the Boulder Chamber will coordinate with the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership’s activities to support increasing affordable housing in communities throughout Boulder County.
HOUSING INCENTIVES, REGULATION & PREDICTABILITY
Evaluate new possibilities to incentivize owners to create smaller, more affordable properties and units that can support new workforce housing. The Boulder Chamber believes our community should explore options for incentivizing affordable housing strategies through residential redevelopment in the Large Homes/Large Lots study, rather than implementing restrictive measures with punitive impacts that affect residents and small businesses alike.
Along those lines, we oppose retroactive actions, moratoriums, and/or the quick implementation of regulations that prevent projects from moving forward or impose further restrictions on projects that are in the review process. This negatively impacts businesses and the clients they serve, often resulting in significant lost financial investment, additional costs, and decreased income for scores of day laborers that depend on the projects’ work.
The Boulder Chamber supports housing policies that make better and more efficient use of residential spaces. This includes flexibility in occupancy limits for residential properties that can accommodate more than four unrelated persons.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber supports programs that incentivize and facilitate development and redevelopment opportunities that provide affordable and attainable housing choices to Boulder’s workforce.
The Boulder Chamber supports mixed-use development along transit corridors and in under-utilized commercial zones. In particular, higher residential densities and fine-grained, mixed-use zoning in these locations promotes walkable access to employment, commercial services, and local/regional transportation alternatives.
Development opportunities should respect neighborhood character and achieve Boulder’s community-wide economic, social, and environmental goals.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY:
The Boulder Chamber’s advocacy for infill and redevelopment adheres to the following principles:
- Mixed-use residential and commercial development along existing major transit corridors should be supported through clear policy direction that addresses the impediments to achieving this goal.
- The desire for a diversity of housing options and affordable commercial spaces must be explicitly authorized for areas of opportunity, such as the Alpine/Balsam and Diagonal Plaza redevelopments.
- Incentives for greater floor area ratios than current zoning allows should be identified for areas where it’s possible to promote more housing.
- Developing spaces and creative policies for small businesses to locate, grow and flourish within our community.
SUB-AREA & SUB-COMMUNITY PLANNING:
Sub-area planning, like the Alpine/Balsam project, and sub-community plans for areas like East Boulder, should explore opportunities for adding density that accommodate diverse housing options. The Boulder Chamber supports substantive community-based dialogue with key stakeholders as a means to advancing future redevelopment goals that balances both neighborhood interests and community-wide goals. These planning efforts should not be deployed as a tool for delaying redevelopment opportunities.
The Boulder Chamber offers the Urban Land Institute report titled “Boulder’s New East Edge - a vision for transportation, mixed-use and sustainability around 55th and Arapahoe” as a suggestion for the type of development/re-development and infill opportunities that could be possible for the East Arapahoe Corridor or other commercial/industrial zones. Sub-area plans should explore where opportunities exist to allow adding density that accommodates diverse housing options.
PROJECTS OF COMMUNITY SIGNIFICANCE
The Boulder Chamber is an advocate for significant development projects that support economic vitality and the community’s quality of life and respond to the needs of local businesses. Example projects of community significance include the redevelopment of the Alpine/Balsam area, the former Pollard site, Diagonal Plaza, and planning for University Hill projects such as the hill hotel and the CU Hotel/ Conference Center.
Other projects of community significance include residential/commercial developments in areas identified for higher density mixed-use development such as the 28th Street and 30th Street corridors, and the Macy’s building. The Boulder Chamber will engage in efforts to ensure that projects of this nature respond to broad community-wide interests.
CU BOULDER SOUTH ANNEXATION
The Boulder Chamber supports annexation of the CU Boulder South property because:
- CU Boulder has consistently demonstrated a commitment to balancing community interests while meeting its teaching and research mission and maintaining its fiduciary responsibilities. That commitment is embodied in the University’s sincere offer to partner with the City of Boulder to achieve a flood mitigation solution for the safety of the community.
- At no cost to the City, CU has offered to convey ownership of up to 80 acres of its land - conservatively valued at $18M - to facilitate the flood mitigation project for public safety.
- At the same time, during the 2015 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update and in its annexation petition, CU agreed to significant constraints on what and where it will build, including restricting development to 129 of its 308 acres with a maximum building height limit of 55 feet.
- Annexing CU Boulder South facilitates the creation of flood mitigation; housing for CU faculty, staff, and non-freshman students; more multi-modal transportation connections; as well as new and improved walking trails, connections to open space trails, and recreational fields available for community use – all in a walkable community setting.
- CU Boulder will develop approximately 1,100 housing units on CU Boulder South, which will increase the city’s existing housing stock by 2.4%. The benefits of creating the opportunity for a greater proportion of CU Boulder’s faculty, staff, and non-freshman students to reside within the City of Boulder include: 1) reducing in-commuting traffic and the related environmental impact; 2) encouraging greater community integration of the university’s talent and expertise; 3) capturing additional sales tax revenues for the City of Boulder that are currently flowing to other communities where many university community members reside due to the lack of available housing in Boulder; and 4) reducing pressures on the Boulder housing market.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber supports annexation of the CU Boulder South property to immediately address public safety concerns and to create the opportunity for housing that meets the needs of CU Boulder’s faculty, staff and graduate students.
AFFORDABLE COMMERCIAL SPACES
The Boulder Chamber supports incentives that facilitate the creation and preservation of affordable commercial spaces for small businesses, start-ups, non-profits and creative professionals.
Affordable commercial space is analogous to affordable housing, with the costs associated with office and commercial rents influencing the affordability of services businesses can provide to Boulder’s residents. It is not only the price of real estate that drives up overall costs, but high rental rates are also significantly influenced by the fees and costs that the City of Boulder imposes on our local businesses and on the development of new retail and commercial space. It is essential to avoid implementing policies that create direct or indirect costs that typically cause increases in retail and commercial rental rates. It is essential to the continued attraction and retention of local and regional businesses that Boulder maintain competitive rates for commercial spaces that are affordable to all business sizes and types.
We encourage the commitment to a long-term economic strategy with clear near-term steps to create and preserve spaces for businesses that diversify employment centers. The results of these efforts will help create space for critical incubators, innovation hubs, and start-ups as part of future mixed-use developments, ensure Class A office space is available to help keep Boulder companies in Boulder, and provide flexibility for non-profit uses and shared spaces.
INDUSTRIAL LAND USES
The Boulder Chamber supports exploring increased density in industrial and commercial zones to accommodate future mixed-use development. However, the preservation of our General Industrial areas is critical, as the demand for this land use is currently very high throughout the Front Range.
New opportunities for innovation hubs, that include a mix of uses and services in the Light Industrial Zones, should be further explored for specific areas, such as the Flatirons Business Park, 55th & Arapahoe, and Gunbarrel. The right balance of parking, FAR ratios, mix of uses/zones, must be further defined through sub-area plans to retain the industrial focus in those areas, while exploring the possibility to achieve additional community goals.
COMMUNITY BENEFIT, SITE REVIEW & LAND USE CODES
The Boulder Chamber acknowledges that the definition of Community Benefits in the site review criteria remains too imprecise to provide needed guidance to applicants and decision-makers. We support amending the land use codes and site review process to better define the Community Benefits language and broaden the definition to include valued community goals, such as, but not limited to, investments in arts/culture, housing diversity, architectural features, transportation improvements, and affordable commercial spaces.
The lack of consensus in our community about what constitutes Community Benefit should not be used as a limit for developing greater housing opportunities on sites that can clearly handle density that is greater than the 35-foot limits allow. We are losing beneficial opportunities to create more housing while our city struggles to define Community Benefit.
The Boulder Chamber recommends refining land use code, including the code that serves as the justification by City Council for development moratoriums. This includes lifting the moratorium restricting Boulder’s Opportunity Zone. Updating the use tables (which show what uses are allowed in which zones) and use category definitions will make the land use code more up-to-date and allow for a fresh evaluation of appropriate locations for housing, mixed use, commercial services, and use types. Code changes that implement adopted Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policies should be prioritized so that appropriateness of housing in industrial and commercial zones can be properly evaluated.
The Boulder Chamber maintains its staunch objection to using a moratorium as a development control tool without clear evidence an emergency issue or problem exists. In implementing moratoriums for indefinite periods, there is usually no way to anticipate the unintended consequences to Boulder’s economy, businesses, and City tax revenues. In most cases development is already controlled by Boulder’s zoning and extensive discretionary review processes (with City Council control through call-ups).
With respect to the active moratoriums, the Boulder Chamber believes that the “opportunity zone” designation our community received can incentivize desired redevelopment in targeted areas. In order to avoid missing the short incentive window offered by the federal Opportunity Zone program, we believe Boulder’s City Council should drop its moratorium or, as it indicates it will, work diligently to limit the scope of the moratorium imposed upon East Boulder’s entire commercial core. As is the case for development proposals in the Opportunity Zone, a tax incentive that may help get projects off the ground does not mean that the zoning code and planning reviews can be neglected.
Moratoriums have been complemented, and additionally complicated, by a lack of clarity from our City Council about the desired outcome in the given areas, creating situations of ambiguity, confusion, and lack of direction for architects, builders, and property owners. City Council should encourage building professionals to provide vision and direction for innovative development or redevelopment concepts. Allow industry experts and capable teams to develop options, and incentivize the type of benefits that are desired, rather than limit opportunities.
Land use development decisions should meet a variety of social, cultural, and environmental goals in a sustainable manner while always giving appropriate weight to our community’s economic vitality and the fair expectations of property owners. The Boulder Chamber and its membership will continue to participate and collaborate in the numerous planning processes underway to ensure we meet the community’s broad policy goals.
However, we oppose governing by emergency ordinances and moratorium actions. Instead, we support codes and processes that allow for outcomes based on fact-based data and input from those impacted.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber objects to extreme measures, such as development moratoria as land use control tools without clear evidence of a public emergency.
HEIGHT LIMITS MORATORIUM
Eliminate the current moratorium in order to allow for commercial and residential building submissions that exceed 35 feet. This allows for project creativity, flexibility, and granular planning that better aligns with community goals, offers community benefits, and enhances the character of building architecture and functionality. Further, because land cost is the greatest underlying expense in any redevelopment project, the reduced building densities caused by the current height moratorium result in higher commercial and residential rates, which are counter to Boulder’s stated social equity and small business support goals. Thus, the City must move quickly to complete its Community Benefit Study to define standards that will allow the current City Council to meet its stated condition for removing the current 35 foot height moratorium.
The Bottom Line: The Boulder Chamber believes City Council should immediately eliminate the current moratorium on buildings over 35 feet in height.
IMPROVE PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT PERMITTING PROCESSES
Our businesses constantly face the challenge of navigating the City’s complex permitting processes and regulations. These obstacles impose added costs and time delays to projects that are just getting off the ground and have discouraged new creative businesses or ventures that would otherwise be desirable in our community. Most impactful are costs associated with delays that are often passed on to tenants and businesses. We need to prioritize the identification of review and permitting efficiencies for all development projects.
AREA III PLANNING RESERVE
While not advocating for near-term annexation of Area III properties, the Boulder Chamber encourages a process to define a future vision or development plan for the Area III Planning Reserve. This process will help the City of Boulder better prepare for development opportunities in that area prior to entertaining future annexation proposals. It also could establish a vision for Area III that is responsive to community values, rather than risk the absence of a plan, and encourage by-right development that is not in line with community needs.
RELATED LAND USE & REDEVELOPMENT ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE
Education Institutions & Federal Laboratories: The future vitality of our public education institutions and federal laboratories should be considered in all applicable planning and community development policies.
Arts & Culture: Incorporate arts and culture into planning to create a vibrant community. This includes efforts to create additional performance spaces and live/work housing options for artists. The Boulder Chamber also believes public art should be recognized as a benefit in site reviews.
Parking: The City of Boulder parking codes should be updated to fit contemporary requirements and adjusted in accordance with the pursuit of other goals such as contextually appropriate considerations in the relationship between parking, density, housing, and access to transit. At the same time, we need to ensure there is adequate parking in close proximity to retail corridors/centers along with the appropriate signage and other mechanisms to conveniently direct customers to open parking zones. Additionally, parking code changes must caution against tightening the supply in proximity to office and retail services.