It's Boulder Planning Board Thursday and we're going to do another round on the Spine Road apartments. No public comment tonight, just deliberations based on last week's applicant presentation and hearing. Still, could require popcorn.
Summary of the 6/17 public hearing, ICYMI:
Planning Board asking for some updates on regional transportation projects in the Gunbarrel area - specifically BRT on Diagonal and a first/last mile project. Lots of things in the design phase.
A local shuttle/circulator service is part of the apartment proposal. Boulder Chamber was actually planning this *pre*-COVID, and is now prepared to resume.
Sarah Silver wants to know if there is ongoing funding for the shuttle (which would be free to riders). Boulder Chamber is committed to one year. Additional years would cost $200-300K.
Via will run the service initially, RTD may be interested in partnership in the future to replace its cut services. City/County and Regional Air Quality Council also interested in contributing.
Gerstle hasn't been listening about the service area. It will circulate in Gunbarrel. Not between central Boulder and Gunbarrel. But the latter has been discussed.
Gerstle is also questioning long-term funding potential of the Gunbarrel circulator. Andrea Meneghel mentioning private employers and others getting on board. Many gov. orgs. waiting for it to get off the ground.
The only *firm* commitment right now is $200K to launch the first year. And this is clearly the point Silver and Gerstle want in the record.
Gerstle also wants to know about the library annex in the Spine Road development. Does the library actually want it?
Library Director David Farnan is on the call. A Gunbarrel branch is part of the library master plan, neighbors want it, library has been actively looking for a location. This is a good one.
Farnan: A corner library would have a 3-5 year lease. Essentially its testing the market, seeing if there's demand/potential for a future branch.
Gerstle: There's no dedicated parking for a corner library, is that ok?

Farnan: NoBo corner library has no parking and has high visitor numbers. Gunbarrel annex is also close to housing.
Developer correcting Gerstle: All commercial spaces in the Spine Road proposal provide parking according to city code.
Reminder: We're talking about a housing development. The questions about shuttle service and library annex are about what might be considered sweeteners in the proposal. The strategy appears to be one of sowing uncertainty about these benefits.
Gerstle now asking questions about earlier (1980s) plans for the Celestial Seasonings site. Some folks at the public hearing claim Celestial was obligated to provide recreational facilities.
Planning staff interpret earlier planning approvals as requiring facilities for Celestial Seasonings *employees*, not for the public.
Gerstle: Whether or not ball fields were intended for the public, wasn't Celestial responsible for building them?

City Attorney: Ball fields were part of a later phase of development that was never built. "I don't consider them to be not in compliance with their approval."
Gerstle continues to press the issue. Ball fields were required.

I'm gonna step back again to say this is a review of proposed housing, right now, in 2021. Not 1988. But here we are.
Gerstle questioning interpretations of the Boulder Valley Comp Plan now. City Council encouraged residential development in industrial zones, but didn't they want to preserve some industrial land?
City staff: Since 2004 there have been 3 residential projects approved in industrial zones - all adjacent to residential neighborhoods. We're striking a balance.
Moving on to actual deliberations...Like about the criteria that Planning Board is actually allowed to consider in its decision.
Silver comes out swinging - Spine Road apartments don't meet site review criteria.

Though she thanks developer for responding to all of the concerns raised in earlier reviews.
Silver: Spine Road fails to meet Comp Plan goals for compact development, walkability, and energy efficiency.

Gerstle also objecting based on unbuilt 1980s recreational facilities and loss of industrial land in the city.
What will they propose as conditions for approval? Wrong answers only...
Jorge Boone joining in now. Wants to hear more about reservations about transportation connections.

But apparently not more about assurances?
Lupita Montoya (who was absent from last week's public hearing) feels good about the current proposal. Also, we're not really losing industrial land because this was never developed as industrial. The jobs-housing imbalance makes her forgiving of land use changes towards housing.
Gerstle on the 1980s recreation facilities promises...He doesn't actually need them built, but is concerned that the original owner is getting away with something.
Gerstle: Even if the public wouldn't have been able to use the ball fields, they would have gotten a benefit from buildings not being built on the site.
Buildings not being built as a community benefit. Discuss. #Boulder
Friends, I am so much more made for Planning Board live-tweets than I am for candidate forums.
City Attorney: The 1980s PUD also set aside space for a parking lot and that hasn't happened either...
Sarah Silver. Let's talk about open space. What happens to the prairie dogs when they get moved? Hearing that p-dogs will be predated in new locations makes her think the relocation ordinance doesn't achieve its goals.
Silver: P-dog relocation ordinance is a hollow law. But she's not asking for additional conditions (on this subject) on the development.
Next topic: Is residential appropriate here?

Gerstle: "Not to drag this out, but my concerns remain about the use of land that is intended for industrial purposes for residential.

Though he understands changes made in the Comp Plan that encourage this."
Comp Plan for you, but not for me, apparently.
Peter Vitale: Concerned about losing industrial, but there is residential adjacent here. And if we don't have housing, it doesn't matter if we have industrial land in the future.
Vitale: If there had been a proposal for industrial development here we would have heard hours of public comment against *it*.

Gerstle: Can we place conditions on remaining Celestial Seasonings land that it has to be industrial or ball park/open space? Because he's certain there will be more applications.
Question to City Attorney: Can Planning Board place conditions on proposals that *aren't* in front of the board right now?
City Attorney: This is part of a PUD (planned unit development) so you could amend the PUD, but encourages board to talk about criteria...
David Ensign: The time for this discussion is in updates to the Comp Plan.
Sarah Silver proposes a condition: 18 months after occupancy is too late of a deadline to start the shuttle service. Wants a guarantee of payment earlier?
Meeting interrupted by a cuckoo clock in the home where chair David Ensign is currently sitting. Sounds about right.
I'm not sure what Silver actually wants - an earlier start to the shuttle service, or a financial guarantee. Anyway, we're talking about $200K and/or 18 months. For a private shuttle. At a 230-unit housing complex.
Developer: The intent was to start the shuttle service when the residents are actually moved in.

Silver: That's clarity. How do people feel about starting it earlier, since it's supposed to serve more of Gunbarrel?
City staff explaining timeline of construction: It's probably three years from approval to final certificates of occupancy. Keep that in mind if changing the timeframe of transportation obligations.
I'm at the housing site review. I'm at the area circulator micromanagement meet-up. I'm at the combination housing site review area circulator micromanagement meet-up.
Silver: If the applicant were to sell the development halfway through the obligation period would the new owner still be responsible for the shuttle?

She knows the answer is yes, right? An approval is for a project, not for an owner.
This went on for so long that I lost what the actual condition being imposed was. A majority went for it, so we'll hear it again when motions are made.
Silver wants another condition that EcoPasses be required for longer than 3 years (normal city standard for transportation demand management plans).
Aside: Standards for Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plans for large developments were supposed to be part of the city's parking reform project. That part of the project is on hold right now.
Silver asks city staff for a recommendation on how long EcoPasses should be provided.

Answer: No longer than five years because they don't think there's additional benefit going longer (programs establish or they don't).
Silver straw-polls on a 5-year EcoPass requirement. That will go forward.
Gerstle's turn to make a few paper cuts...
Gerstle: Wants no gates/fences to keep people out of public areas (aside from pool).
Gerstle: Also wants to amend plans for vacant Celestial Seasonings land west of this site to allow no more buildings.

Boone and Vitale pushing back on this one. Planning Board/City Council should review future proposals as normal.
City Attorney: Board can restrict fences/gates, but can't disallow 'no trespassing' signs. Private property owners *can* exclude people from sites, we can't require that the public has access.
Silver now wants a *request* to Celestial Seasonings to keep land to the west as lower-case 'o' open space.

Ensign is 'less than comfortable' with what sounds like an off-the-cuff rezoning. Vitale agrees.
So this condition dies. ☠️
Boone up now. Wants to codify low/no rent for two on-site commercial spaces (first tenants to be the library and a cafe) in perpetuity.

City Attorney: We can't enforce that. It could be considered a taking.
Boone: Isn't this what we were trying to do with permanently affordable commercial space?

City Attorney: That was framed as an exchange, and there were criteria (and let's not forget, City Council rejected the policy).
Boone: Can we just ask the developer if they are willing?

Developer: That's our intent.
City Attorney: You can only make a condition of approval if the proposal doesn't meet the criteria without it (subtext: let's get back to the criteria for approval).
Boone: Can something be codified w/out being a condition?

City Attorney: It would have to be recorded as a condition because it's not part of the plan.

Boone: But the developer is willing to do it.

City Attorney: I still have a problem that it's not related to review criteria.
City Attorney: Conditions should address the impacts that the development is creating. And what you require needs to be proportional in nature and extent to the impact created.

Essentially, you can't require a library in perpetuity because.
Boone: But can the developer agree to it anyway? It would be a sign of good will. They could record it on their own without it being a condition.

City Attorney: Yes, that's ok.

This sounds *very* sketchy to me.
Record a condition of your own volition so that we don't try to impose an illegal condition on you in exchange for supporting your project.
We're still here, just wordsmithing conditions of approval. Here's what a condition-that-isn't looks like:
There's a motion to approve (with conditions) on the table.

In discussion, Boone wants to make sure City Council hears that neighbors want a subcommunity plan.

Ensign says that's a second/separate motion (stay tuned).
Roll call vote: 6-0 in favor (Lisa Smith absent). Unless called up by City Council, Spine Road apartments are approved.
Gerstle adds some commentary about using industrial land for residential purposes - urges City Council to reconsider that direction.
Silver also wants to send a message to prioritize a city-wide discussion about protecting industrial zones.

Is the jobs-housing script changing? I thought the powers-that-be wanted housing in industrial zones to reduce Boulder's jobs potential.

But now, housing is also bad?
Gerstle asked if the board should vote on the project before continuing this discussion. Ensign clarifies they already have. Oops?
Another motion: Recommend to City Council that Gunbarrel to be a top priority for subcommunity planning. It already is, but this also passes 6-0.
Stick around to the bitter end lest you miss something good...Silver wants some additions to guidelines for public comments, which she thinks are more polarizing than they need to be.
Silver: Members of the public often assume motives on the part of people with whom they have policy differences. Can staff add some language encouraging a focus on policy rather than people?
Planning Board will be in recess until July 15th. And if anyone here wants to take up this little citizen-journalism project at that time, have at it. I'll be on Central European Time until mid-August, so I definitely won't be doing this live.
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