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Boulder considers industrial land-use code update

BOULDER — The Boulder City Council tonight will consider a major update to its land-use code for industrial uses and districts.

The council is to decide whether to approve Ordinance 8556 on second reading, a measure that could affect every industrial property in the city. The ordinance, with minor changes, was unanimously approved by the city’s planning board on Oct. 18.

The new land-use code would allow more restaurants and other amenities in industrial-zoned areas, along with retail businesses of up to 2,000 square feet, and the addition of gyms without use review.

All office uses would be combined into a single category instead of having separate codes that divided office uses into such classifications as medical and professional. However, it doesn’t permit those offices to be located on the ground floor of buildings, which could leave some leaseholders suddenly in nonconforming status.

The new code also would prohibit residential development within industrial zones, which could leave at least one approved project in nonconforming status before it’s built. The Boulder City Council in July 2021 approved the development of a 230-unit apartment complex on a nearly 10-acre tract along Spine Road near the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Gunbarrel.

Through direct mail and social media, the city offered citywide a questionnaire late last summer about public perceptions of industrial-zoned areas and received 91 responses. Forty percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that setting aside space for industrial use in Boulder is important, and nearly 50% thought housing should be allowed in industrial zones.

Other public comments the city received expressed support for the changes as a first step but concern about residential density limits, displacing of residents and ground-floor requirements for offices. Letters the city received mentioned the need for additional public transit, crime prevention and shorting the timelines for processing of permits.

Letters from the Boulder Chamber and law firm Holland & Hart LLP echoed the concerns about prohibiting residential development in “IS” and “IM” zones as well as the impacts of prohibiting ground-floor offices and a 50,000-square-foot limit for them.

Noting the difficulty in entering into binding office leases until some questions about the new rules are addressed, the letter sent Tuesday from attorneys J. Marcus Painter and Jordan J. Bunch of Holland and Hart noted that being able to confirm in advance whether a proposed use is “office” or “research and development” would be critical, as would “confirming where the line is between principal use and accessory use.”

Making certain designations “applicable to the project as a whole and not each lot would help in making the changes more in keeping with actual practice and provide businesses with the level of certainty they need to locate, invest, and grow in Boulder,” they wrote.

Today’s meeting will be from 6 to 10:30 p.m. in the Penfield Tate II Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway.

Source: BizWest