Boulder City Council considered and then rejected a proposed emergency ordinance Tuesday night to temporarily stop accepting building permits for what are known as McMansions – houses of 35-hundred square feet on lots of 10-thousand square feet or more.
KGNU’s Roz Brown says for some attending the meeting it felt like Boulder City Council was taking a ‘better late than never’ approach to stop the spread of monster-sized homes, while others wondered what had created such a sense of urgency that construction of homes over 35-hundred square feet needed to be halted through an emergency ordinance.
“To declare this an emergency is an insult to actual emergencies Boulder does face,” said Tim Ryan.
In contrast, Boulderite Marie Adams said she supported the ordinance because, “these larger homes are making Boulder become a community for the privileged and the affluent.”
Discussions about how to limit the spread of large homes came up during a September council study session when some members expressed concern about scrap-offs that deplete neighborhoods of smaller, more affordable homes and instead produce mega-houses, some with a resident in place for only a few weeks each month. Councilmember Sam Weaver suggested some developers take advantage of the community.
“There are people in the building trades whose practices are not serving the community well,” said Weaver. “They are total speculators, and are often not members of the community and they are not building to serve people who live in the community but people who come from the outside.”
Since 2010, the median size of new homes replacing scrap-offs is more than five-thousand square feet. Councilmember Mary Young worries that trend is destroying a sense of community in her Boulder neighborhood, and one local citizen agreed.
“My biggest fear is that we won’t have any community, and I think that’s probably why a lot of us are here.”
Craig Norbeck said he grew alarmed about McMansions after seeing a house under construction in his neighborhood that’s seven-thousand square feet and selling for over $5 million. “To me that’s completely antithetical to Boulder’s values,” said Norbeck.
Other public speakers said they feared what a sudden moratorium might mean for their homes and property, and that a moratorium was too much, too soon. In the end council agreed, deciding against it, in-part fearing what it could do to houses already in the pipeline.
But for longtime Councilmember Lisa Morzel – who proposed the moratorium – the issue isn’t likely to be abandoned. A 40-year resident of Boulder, Morzel grew emotional talking about aggressive developers and Realtors who she said purchase every available property in Boulder and leave behind McMansions that change a neighborhood forever.
“If we don’t do something pretty quickly, we will have a community – and maybe we already do – of just the very much haves and the serfs who have no opportunity.”