The Boulder City Council and Planning Board took public comment on the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update Tuesday night – but nearly all of those attending came to talk about the CU South property on U.S. 36. KGNU’s Roz Brown says the complex issue drew more than 50 speakers to city council chambers.
The University Boulder owns the 308-acre property at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa – sometimes called the West Valley. CU wants Boulder to change its current use designation and annex the land. That would allow the university to build more than a thousand housing units, eight academic buildings and recreation fields. But first, the flood-prone site needs serious mitigation to prevent the kind of damage that occurred to homes and businesses during the 2013 flood. South Boulder resident Laura Tyler was severely impacted by that event and would like to see work begin as soon as possible.
“The flood at our home resulted in a huge amount of water that was quite dangerous,” said Tyler. “We had to evacuate while wading through thigh-deep water. The situation in our neighborhood is dire and every year that passes brings us closer to another catastrophic flood and I wholeheartedly support the cooperation with CU to achieve flood mitigation.”
Dana Bove wants the city to slow down and thinks the city needs to remove the CU site from the comprehensive plan to allow time for additional study.
“I think the City is acting like CU has them over a barrel,” said Bove. “And I don’t think CU has been a good neighbor to the city of Boulder and it feels like CU is saying, ‘Give us what we want regardless of what problems are created – give us what we want or you can’t mitigate for flooding.’ I believe they are rushing and there are studies that need to be done and there are a lot of problems with Option D.”
Option D would create a flood control berm on the northern and eastern portions of the CU South site adjacent to U.S. 36. Hydrologist Gordon McCurry has studied flood mitigation in the South Boulder area for years. He says the proposed dam will not be adequate should Boulder be hit with an even bigger flood than the one in 2013.
“There are key flaws that make the damn unworkable in a larger context,” said McCurry. “The city engineers were severely constrained in their design, but I think what you heard tonight is a larger request to consider what is the best and most cost-effective design.”
Some of those who spoke don’t want the open space wetlands developed at all – and suggested the city make a property trade with CU. And then there was long-time Boulderite Ruth Wright. Wright is a former state representative and has spent years on local issues. She took out her checkbook to make a point.
“The flood flows upon which Option D is based were developed by a very sophisticated computer,” said Wright. “I have been told that if you put other information into that computer – if you ask for instance what a 500-year flood might look like – it will tell you. But it’s expensive and I know it’s not in the City’s budget. But I feel so passionate about protecting people in the West Valley that I contributed a $10,000 check to do that computer study to find out if Option D does or doesn’t do the job it’s suppose to.”
No actions were taken by Boulder City Council Tuesday night. Additional meetings are scheduled for June.