Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Bruce Warren

Twin Lakes plan is flawed


February 9, 2017

The Boulder County Planning Commission has an opportunity to reconsider its earlier approval of the change in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan that would pave the way for the City of Boulder and the Boulder Valley School District to build sorely needed affordable housing, up to 240 units, in the Twin Lakes area of Gunbarrel.

For decades the City of Boulder has implemented policies which, while making Boulder a very desirable place to live, drive the cost of housing up, to the point where middle class families, not to mention lower income families, cannot afford to live there. City efforts to address the issue to date have not made a significant impact on the cost of housing, and the city council’s unwillingness to follow recommendations of experts do not give cause for optimism.

The Twin Lakes solution has enlisted the County of Boulder, and the Boulder County Housing Authority, as well as the Boulder Valley School District, in a plan which would allow affordable housing to be built on property in Twin Lakes which was previously unavailable for development as housing at that density.

The Twin Lakes Action Group (TLAG) has organized the opposition to the plan. TLAG would like to keep the density at low levels, and protect at least some of the land as open space. Residents of Twin Lakes have grown accustomed to the property being undeveloped, and want to preserve the wildlife they have come to know in the area.

While the “not in my backyard” complaint should fall on deaf ears of the Planning Commission, there are other reasons to deny the land use change. For one, the housing authority project under consideration would never have been allowed by a private developer. The price paid ($470,000 for almost 10 acres) by the county for the land reflected the restrictions imposed on development, and now the same government seeks to remove the restrictions for its own benefit, however noble that may be. That’s not fair.

For another, the City of Boulder has long neglected Gunbarrel, providing little in the way of parks or playgrounds for the City residents there, but profiting greatly from the taxes generated by the commercial and industrial areas it has annexed.

Third, the city and county are convinced that the end (affordable housing) justifies the means. The plan would require that Boulder County consent to annexation of its land, a trail corridor, into the city to provide a means to achieve annexation of the targeted parcels. Boulder County has always refused, in the past, to allow such annexation for the purpose of residential development. Changing the policy at this point isn’t fair.

The County Planning Commission is largely an advisory body to the County Commissioners, who are, in most cases, free to follow, or not follow, Planning Commission recommendations. This is different, however, as one of the few areas where the Planning Commission’s approval must be obtained in order to change the Comprehensive Plan designation.

The Planning Commission should reconsider its earlier vote and deny the proposed change.


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