By JAN BURTON | Jan.email@example.com | For the Camera
September 3, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.
A misguided opinion piece by Camera Opinion Page Editor Julie Marshall was parroted by three Boulder City Council candidates during the Boulder Chamber’s candidate forum held last week. This continues a long saga over flood protection and subsequent development of CU’s South property.
Ms. Marshall, on behalf of the paper’s editorial board, stated in her Aug. 22 editorial, “CU can become the hero of this story by taking moral responsibility as landowner and granting the city an easement right away, with a pending annexation agreement for the future. We imagine this move would go a long way toward building trust with the city where it resides and look good to private donors.”
As a private donor to the University of Colorado, nothing would be more disturbing to me than CU granting an easement to the city with no guarantee of annexation.
In fact, it would be a huge lapse of governance by the university. CU paid $16.5 million of state monies for this land, and it is their fiduciary responsibility to safeguard that investment for Colorado taxpayers.
The head-shaker in Ms. Marshall’s recommendation of CU granting the city an easement for flood protection is the assumption that a future Boulder City Council would actually approve an annexation — the key to South Boulder Creek flood protection.
In addition, the annexation agreement between CU and the city is incredibly intricate and detailed, and a simple easement just isn’t possible. After decades of work, let’s not oversimplify this solution.
Secondly, Ms. Marshall recommended swapping 190 acres of land owned by the city, known as the planning reserve, meaning that CU would then develop their campus and housing north of the city, and CU South would remain undeveloped, except for flood mitigation.
With such a swap, 190 acres of city-owned land, a long-held reserve for potential workforce and affordable housing would vanish. This would be another major lapse in governance. Not to mention, this option has been studied before and was not deemed a realistic alternative because of related delays to the flood mitigation process and the numerous unknown factors in the development review process for the planning reserve.
Mark Wallach, the only incumbent running in this year’s Council election and someone who typically is cautious about supporting new development, has indicated his strong support for the draft agreement negotiated by his counterparts, Mayor Sam Weaver and councilwoman Rachel Friend.
Wallach and his fellow council members know that this is a comprehensive draft agreement that has included extensive Council, city boards and public involvement over the past two years. Weaver’s opinion piece (Aug. 15) details the extensive planning process and agreement details that he has monitored and helped to craft for over 10 years.
In Mayor Weaver’s opinion: “I believe the current CU South annexation proposal is a fair and beneficial package that enables timely implementation of critical flood protection … the proposal improves flood protection for 2,300 people, preserves high-value wildlife habitat, maintains public access, increases CU housing options and keeps any development out of flood plains.”
Importantly, Boulder residents themselves support annexation. In a May 2021 survey by Drake Research, 56% of the respondents supported annexation versus only 23% who were opposed. In addition, of the 10 Council candidates in the recent chamber candidate forum, seven of them strongly supported the annexation agreement.
Though I believe Ms. Marshall’s opinion reflected a good-natured attempt at a favorable outcome that meets community goals, I hope she and the Camera’s editorial board will reconsider their position before this fall’s vote.
Let’s be realistic and encourage good governance for both our city and our university. Neither CU nor the city can afford to play poker with their biggest land assets — in an implausible act of heroism.
This historic agreement is good for Boulder. It is balanced and protects lives. In the short term, Council should proceed to vote “yes” for annexation on Sept. 21 and Council candidates should fully support that annexation.
Finally, residents should close the deal with a “no” vote on the ballot measure “Let the Voters Decide on Annexation of CU South” in November.
Let’s make everyone a superhero by doing the right thing for public safety, workforce housing and our environment.
Jan Burton is a former member of the Boulder City Council. Email: Jan.firstname.lastname@example.org. She also commissioned the Drake Research survey mentioned in this column.