Boulder: Council Considers Hill Residential Restrictions

University Hill, a neighborhood that’s been popular with college students for decades, may face additional development restrictions if the City of Boulder has its way. At a recent study session, the Boulder City Council had its first opportunity to provide feedback on a proposal to make residential a conditional use in the commercial district and permit it only if it is permanently affordable workforce or senior housing.

That recommendation came out of several months of economic analysis and community meetings conducted during a seven-month moratorium on all new residential projects in the commercial district. The analysis found that market conditions made high-end student housing the most profitable way to redevelop sites in the area. Furthermore, the analysis indicated that the office uses the City (and some business owners) wants to encourage would not be profitable.

City planners recommended changing the allowed uses in the Business-Main Street zone on University Hill in hopes of changing those market conditions. Councilman Andrew Shoemaker, who lives on the Hill supports limiting housing in the area to workforce and senior housing.

Council members were divided on whether the city should develop incentive packages to encourage less profitable office space to be built on the Hill. Another idea being proposed is to apply for National Historic Register District status to allow property owners to get tax credits for preserving historic buildings. Shoemaker said the city already has its demolition ordinance, but Boulder needs a way to stop property owners from neglecting structures until they cannot be saved.

The Planning Board, the Landmarks Board and the University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission will consider the issue next. The City Council is scheduled to hold a first reading of an ordinance related to the district’s zoning on Feb. 17, with a second reading scheduled for March 3. The moratorium expires March 18.

Note: What is wrong with this picture? Students have always enjoyed living on the Hill because it is easy to walk to campus and leave one’s car at home. Does the City really want to encourage more student-related traffic? How would the University feel about that? Also the idea of senior housing on the Hill gives me nightmares. Residents already complain about the noise from student parties. Adding seniors to the mix could only exacerbate this problem.

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