Bal­ance in Boul­der’s de­vel­op­ment

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Jef­frey Flynn Re: Jef­frey Flynn is an at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents So­cial Se­cu­rity dis­abil­ity clients in their claims against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. He lives in Boul­der.

“Can Boul­der meet own ideals?” Dec. 11 guest com­men­tary.

Eric Budd’s guest com­men­tary in­di­cated that Boul­der strug­gles to meet its af­ford­abil­ity goals, cit­ing a mixe­duse project’s re­jec­tion and a bat­tle over a co-op or­di­nance.

Con­cern­ing the 50-unit mixed-use de­vel­op­ment, the plan­ning de­part­ment staff in a rare event rec­om­mended that the plan­ning board re­ject the project, which it did. With min­i­mal green space, the project ig­nored the char­ac­ter of the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood, a Boul­der Val­ley’s Com­pre­hen­sive Plan re­quire­ment. It failed to meet al­most all of Boul­der’s plan­ning stan­dards, cre­at­ing a traf­fic night­mare at a busy in­ter­sec­tion. It at­tempted to change the zon­ing of the par­cel from pub­lic to high den­sity without one unit be­ing des­ig­nated as per­ma­nently af­ford­able.

Mostly 400-square-foot units priced around $1,250 a unit, each would cost about $3.10 a square foot. If this square-foot num­ber is mul­ti­plied by 1,200 square feet; a mod­est two-bed­room apart­ment, these units ef­fec­tively cost over $3,720 without util­i­ties. Hardly af­ford­able when ex­am­ined from this per­spec­tive. It’s like we now see with food prod­ucts. The bag is big­ger but the food in it is less, and the prices are go­ing up. The rush to build mi­crounits is a bait and switch by de­vel­op­ers to max­i­mize prof­its while claim­ing to be af­ford­able, at the same time ex­clud­ing fam­i­lies due to their tiny size.

Con­cern­ing the co-op or­di­nance Budd men­tioned, it cur­rently pro­poses al­low­ing 12 un­re­lated peo­ple to move into a 2,000-square foot house in a low-den­sity neigh­bor­hood. Peo­ple live in low-den­sity neigh­bor­hoods be­cause they chose the quiet neigh­bor­hood life­style. Many have spent 20-30 years pay­ing off the mort­gage on their house, which is their re­tire­ment. A coop next door with 12 peo­ple would drive the value of their house down, mak­ing them work longer be­fore re­tir­ing. Many fa­vor co-ops in high­er­den­sity ar­eas where they cause less of an im­pact. In­stead of go­ing from three un­re­lated peo­ple in a house in a low-den­sity neigh­bor­hood to 12, how about a num­ber in be­tween?

Boul­der, like Denver, is un­der­go­ing enor­mous change. The pen­du­lum has now swung too far in the di­rec­tion of de­vel­op­ment. A bal­ance has to be re­stored where de­vel­op­ment and change work to­gether. We share the same con­cerns in this re­gard. Af­ford­able hous­ing can be in neigh­bor­hoods in a way that re­spects ev­ery­one’s needs. Let’s work on that goal to­gether.

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