Another density skeptic appointed to Boulder’s Planning Board

Photo by nikohoshi on Unsplash

Friday, March 19, 2021

City council has once again put a growth-wary resident on the board responsible for reviewing development. They also passed over a design professional for the second straight, arguing that such experience is not necessary despite Planning Board’s role in weighing the merits of projects — including design elements. Instead, a non-voting member of another board may be used to fill that gap.

Jorge Boone was appointed to a five-year seat, one of two dozen civilians who were seated on Boulder’s many boards and commissions Tuesday night. While he has expressed support for up-zoning and multi-family housing, he remains critical of high-density development and has actively campaigned against two high-profile projects.

Boone, a developer and landlord, was active with Think Boulder, a group that used questionable methods to advocate for reduced density at the former hospital site commonly referred to as Alpine-Balsam. Boone himself accused staff of lying to council and the community at a 2019 public hearing.

“This is the problem with city as developer,” he said at the time. “It’s a biased point of view.”

He also previously endorsed a petition to curb aspects of the 311 Mapleton redevelopment, another former health campus slated to be turned into  senior housing. Boone has also voiced concerns about persons experiencing homelessness using the library, including an email to library director David Farnan.

Boone declined a request for comments, pointing to his application materials and interview as sufficient representations of his “views on planning and development” in an emailed response.

His application focused on the job-housing imbalance as the biggest planning issue in Boulder, and named the Macy’s Development as an example of a project that would exacerbate it. But, per his interview, he also supports “up-zoning in some areas of Boulder” — including shopping centers — and stated that “duplexes and townhouses … make a lot of sense” as housing that “falls between single-family and high-density.”

Numerous city goals call for increased housing, and Boulder’s comp plan calls for higher density development along transit corridors. Alpine-Balsam, situated along Broadway, fits that bill, as does 30Pearl, another project Boone criticized in his application. The in-progress neighborhood, rescued from insolvency by BHP and praised for its innovative approach, “missed the mark on human-scale development,” he wrote.

Multiple council members vouched for Boone’s character, including those who voted for the other nominee, architect Rosie Fivian.

Balance on the board

Last year’s Planning Board picks included an ardent opponent of Tgthr’s (formerly Attention Homes) Pine Street project, though she later served on a good neighbor group. There was discussion among city council on Tuesday about striking a balance on the board in viewpoints on growth, the issue over which Boulder’s political factions tend to split.

“What do you see is the balance of the board currently,” Swetlik asked of Bob Yates and Sam Weaver, who nominated Fivian and Boone, respectively, “and why would you choose this person for the current balance?”

“I appreciate having folks who want development to be smart and well planned,” Weaver said. “It’s hard to pigeon-hole people … there are some folks who don’t fit neatly into pro-development or anti-development camps. In some eras you have a clear split on the board; I don’t know that the board is in that position.”

“What I appreciated about Jorge is his concern that growth be well-planned … that we think about the impacts.” 

“I agree with Sam that it’s hard to pigeonhole people,” Yates concurred. “I think if I were compare what I understand about Rosie’s positions and Jorge’s, I would guess Rosie probably more closely aligns with Harmon Zuckerman, who is coming off the board, and with Bryan Bowen who came off the board last year, and Peter Vitale and David Ensign, who are coming off the board next year.”

A five-member majority gave Boone the seat: Swetlik, Weaver, Mark Wallach, Mary Young and Mirabai Nagle.

What I look for in candidates far and above everything else is critical thinking,” Young said. “People that are not making their living locally from the industry would tend to have more of a latitude to be critical thinkers.”

Familiar faces

This year’s appointments were unusually harmonious, with 15 seats filled by acclimation as the sole nominees. Three current members were reappointed, and two former city council candidates — Nikki McCord and Benita Duran — found their way onto BOZA and the library commission, respectively.

They join Susan Peterson, who ran unsuccessfully in 2019 and was then appointed to the Environmental Advisory Board.

Three boards were still recruiting as of Tuesday: the Beverage Licensing Authority and both Boulder Junction boards. Applications have now closed, but may be extended again if enough applications are not received. Those appointments will be made at a later date.

2021 board and commission appointments – full list

Arts Commission – Eboni Freeman (5 years) Maria Cole (5 years) Caroline Kert (4 years)

Board of Zoning Adjustments – Nikki McCord (5 years) Marine Siohan (3 years)

Cannabis Licensing Advisory Board – Robin Noble (5 years) Stacy Green (4 years)

Design Advisory Board – Matthew Schexnyder (5 years) Brendan Ash (4 years)

Downtown Management Commission – Stephanie Trees (5 years) Don Poe (4 years)

Environmental Advisory Board – Carlos (Hernan) Villanueva (5 years)

Housing Advisory Board – Michael Leccese (5 years)

Boulder Housing Partners – Michael Block (5 years) Ann Cooper (5 years) Kimberly Lord (4 years)

Human Relations Commission – Christine Chen (5 years)

Landmarks Board – Abby Daniels (5 years)

Library Commission – Benita Duran (5 years)

Open Space Board of Trustees – Michelle Estrella (5 years)

Parks & Recreation Advisory Board – Elliot Hood (5 years)

Planning Board – Jorge Boone (5 years)

Transportation Advisory Board – Ryan Schuchard (5 years) Tila Duhaime (4 years)

University Hill Commercial Area Management – Ted Rockwell (5 years) Trent Bush (3 years)

Water Resources Advisory Board – Anne Quenzer (5 years)

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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