Boulder: Height Moratorium Extended

The Boulder City Council voted 8-1 with Bob Yates dissenting, to extend the existing building height moratorium until July 19, 2018. The moratorium was implemented in 2015 and prohibits buildings taller than 40 feet in most neighborhoods.

The Council was swayed by the testimony of multiple citizens, who pleaded for the moratorium’s extension, saying tall buildings would destroy the view of the Flatirons. A variety of community organizations, including Better Boulder, Boulder Tomorrow, the Downtown Boulder Partnership and the Boulder Chamber asked the Council to let the moratorium lapse, arguing “this moratorium would constitute the single largest down-zoning in the history of Boulder, with absolutely no public process or analysis to support this action. An 18-month extension merely leaves our community in perpetual limbo with respect to a policy that City Council intended to apply for a ‘brief period’ when it adopted the original moratorium.”

Having grown up in Boulder, it is easy to sympathize with those who are passionate about maintaining the iconic mountain views. But there is more to this issue than the view plain. City surveys show affordable housing is the number one concern for voters. The moratorium makes the City’s affordable housing goals that much more difficult to obtain.

The height moratorium makes it difficult to finance developments because in inhibits the ability to make a profit. The price of land and design requirements are challenging enough, without adding restrictions than decrease the number of units in a development. Boulder can’t grow out because of its planning policies so the only way more residences can be added is to grow up and allow density in certain areas.

Furthermore, the strategy of adopting and then extending a moratorium is a way to avoid controversy in the guise that the policy is only “temporary.” This tactic has been successfully used by Boulder County as well, but its prevalence does not make it is good public policy.

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