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Boulder City Council continues discussion on revisions to industrial use table

BOULDER — Boulder City Council members Thursday opted to “measure twice and cut once” when it came to a massive revision to the city’s use table for industrial uses and districts.

Council members voted unanimously to continue until Jan. 19 a hearing on second reading of Ordinance 8556, a massive overhaul of allowed uses in certain zoning districts.

The decision came after input from owners of industrial real estate, as well as their attorneys and other stakeholders who expressed concern about provisions that would limit residential and office uses in industrial zones.

One such stakeholder was former Colorado House Rep. Jonathan Singer, who now works as the senior director of policy programs for the Boulder Chamber.

Speaking during the public-comment period, Singer was first to offer the carpentry reference.

“When we think about what we’re doing here today, building a better community, we want to measure twice and cut once,” Singer said.

“We built a great process,” Singer said of the work done by city staff, the Planning Board and others in crafting the long-awaited revisions to the use table, but positive elements are countered by concerns over potential lessor-lessee issues, restrictions on office space in industrial zones, definitions of raw materials and other factors.

“All of those things can be resolved … probably not tonight,” Singer said, encouraging the Council to continue the discussion rather than voting Thursday. “Before you take final action, I want you to measure twice on those issues.

“The use table is a table,” he added, “and so, let’s measure twice and make sure that table is on even footing.”

After much discussion, Council members agreed, unanimously opting to continue the discussion while providing some guidance to city staff for potential revisions to the ordinance.

Concerns centered on several proposed use-table changes:

  • Prohibition of office uses on the ground floor within the Industrial – General and Industrial – Manufacturing zones.
  • Prohibition of housing in the IM and Industrial – Service zones. Residential would be allowed in the IG zone, with use review.
  • Definition of raw materials as a differentiator between light manufacturing and general manufacturing. Input from the public and some council members questioned whether the term was too broad, with potential to encompass light manufacturers such as bakeries.
  • Inclusion of private schools in industrial zones only by use review.
  • Limitation of office users in certain industrial zones to 50,000 square feet.

Singer noted that many nonprofits occupy office space in industrial zones because the space typically is more affordable than in other parts of the city.

Kelsey Hunter, director of development for BioMed Realty LLC, which paid $625 million for 1-million-square-foot portfolio in the Flatiron Park development in east Boulder in April, said the company supports many of the proposed changes in the proposed ordinance.

“The proposed ordinance has a lot of welcome change that will strengthen the industrial zone and that we are supportive of,” Hunter said, “such as the amenities with expanded possibilities. This is a great addition to any innovation district, and we look forward to building on this immediately.”

But Hunter said the ordinance would carry some unintended consequences, with companies potentially in danger of falling out of compliance with the zoning ordinance as their businesses evolve.

“We do believe our goals here are aligned on this issue, but wording of the ordinance needs further refinement to achieve this shared goal.”

Hunter added that the first-floor prohibition on office space is “overly restrictive, given that many of the buildings in the affected areas only have a single floor …”

Council members encouraged staff to revise some of the restrictive provisions, and to seek further input from stakeholders in the community.

But they also expressed strong support for some of the new provisions, as well as the years-long work that went into its drafting.

“There is so much that is good in this ordinance,” Mayor Aaron Brockett said. 

The revision process is intended to simplify the use table, streamline regulations and create more predictability in use standards.

Revisions are designed to create more-walkable industrial districts, allowing additional restaurant uses and limited retail in some areas.

The ordinance also would combine the city’s “professional office” and “technical office” categories; update “medical laboratory” to include more types of research and development; allow retail on a limited scale; allow restaurants by right rather than as a conditional use; update definition of live-work units; and allow private schools in certain industrial zones with a use review.

Source: BizWest