The Boulder City Council will hold a retreat this weekend to check-in on goals and priorities they’ve identified for the coming year. Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones tells KGNU’s Roz Brown that a major topic for city council in 2017 is the five-year update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
“We’ll be looking at different scenarios around growth and the jobs/housing balance,” said Jones. “For example, when you look at how much land is zoned commercial versus residential, it may be that if we go along with current zoning and build out in the next 50 years, we’ll end up with more jobs than housing. That will be something we’ll be looking at.”
Mayor Jones has just completed her first year as Boulder’s mayor – a year that included much debate and finally adoption of a new ordinance that allows more cooperative housing in the city. She says the housing conversation will continue in 2017, specifically about how to provide more housing and how to make it more affordable.
“We’ll be looking at our housing policy and whether we want to include more incentives for middle income housing in addition to permanently affordable housing. Also, what is the community benefit we get from housing and how do we want to incentivize the kind of housing we want to see,” said Jones.
In late 2015, the city struck a deal to purchase land on Broadway where the Boulder Community Hospital had been located since 1922. This year council will begin discussions on what the nine-acre site will be used for. The same is true for the seven-acre city-owned property at 30th and Pearl Streets where Pollard Motors was located for many years. There’s also the thorny question of municipalization. A decision must be made as to whether the city will leave Xcel Energy and start its own utility, to work with Xcel on a compromise for its energy future. Jones says it is going to be a big year around energy and the city’s climate goals and municipalization is part of that.
“We just adopted aggressive goals around climate including an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and also we want to get to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030,” said Jones. “Another topic is municipalization and we’re currently on a dual track. We have submitted our application to the Public Utilities Commission and they are looking at it and a decision is expected by June. Meanwhile, we’re in discussions with Xcel and trying to determine if a productive partnership is another route. I imagine in the coming year we’ll pick one of those paths and it’s important for the community to be part of those discussions.”
Jones says Boulder residents will notice more work this year around Boulder Creek near the library, where the first phase of a $9 million Civic Area Improvement plan has started. City Council will also have a conversation about broadband, and what path should be taken in order to get high-speed broadband across the city; and they will be looking how to make Boulder a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community.
Jones says she’s aware that many people in Boulder are concerned about all the changes occurring in the city, but adds that Boulder doesn’t exist in a vacuum given Colorado’s current growth spurt. She says in the face of pressures Boulder has to decide how it evolves and what it thinks is important to maintain a dynamic, welcoming community no matter how much money people make.
Boulder City Council will hold its annual retreat January 20-21, at the Dairy Arts Center.