Guest opinion: Decline to sign referendum petition overturning council’s vote on CU South

Image by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

By Kathie Joyner

After eight years and decades of analysis, city council voted on Sept. 21 to approve the annexation of CU South, paving the way for the South Boulder Creek (SBC) flood protection project. Some opponents of this project have begun a petition drive to place a referendum on the 2022 ballot to reverse council’s action. If approved by the voters, this referendum would overturn council’s decision on annexation and add considerable uncertainty to if/when flood protection would ever be implemented. 

Reasons to decline to sign the petition:

Guaranteed Flood Protection Delays. The recently approved annexation agreement ensures CU’s donation of 80-plus acres to the city for flood protection, a critical requirement for the project to move forward. If enough signatures are gathered to put this referendum on the ballot, it has the potential to delay flood protection for 2,300 residents for an unknown number of years. If the annexation is overturned (the goal of signature gatherers), CU’s donation of land on which city flood protection could be built would be withdrawn, leaving nowhere for the city to build the project. 

Over the past decades, and particularly since the 2013 floods, numerous flood protection options have been analyzed by the city. All of these have been deemed infeasible/unacceptable due to expected permitting problems, unreasonable delays to flood protection with no promise of success, increased environmental impacts when compared to the current option, etc. Please see the city’s FAQs for more specific information on why other options have been dismissed.

In June 2020, council recommended that staff move forward with the 100-year flood protection design at the CU South property as the preferred alternative because “this concept was found to have the least environmental impacts, the lowest cost, and was identified to have the greatest probability of being permitted by the various regulatory agencies.” This preferred design will protect 2300 residents from a flood event similar (and worse) to that in 2013. 

Choosing to pursue previously analyzed options deemed to be infeasible by the city would leave downstream residents at continued and unnecessary risk of unknown duration and no better off than they were in the 2013 flood.

Decline to sign this petition to ensure the life safety of thousands of Boulder residents.

Housing. If such a referendum is approved and annexation is overturned, CU’s commitment to provide 1,100 housing units for CU affiliates (no freshmen) and about 100 units of affordable housing would not be realized. For years, city leaders and the public have pushed for CU to provide additional housing. CU’s commitment to provide a significant amount of housing at CU South is contractual as part of the annexation agreement, should it stand. None of that housing will be available to help reduce impacts elsewhere in the city should annexation be reversed.    

Decline to sign this petition to ensure that 1,100 CU housing units and approximately 100 units of affordable housing will become a much-needed reality.

Jeopardizes donation/acquisition of land for city Open Space and Mountain Parks. The annexation agreement includes the donation by CU of 44 acres for city open space. In addition, the city has the right to acquire 75 additional acres of CU South property for open space.

This is significant not just for the acreage involved but because it sits immediately adjacent to city open space within the South Boulder Creek state natural area. Such an acquisition will improve the natural ecosystem of the entire area and reconnect the historic floodplain. Along with this acquisition goes the commitment by the city and CU to work collaboratively toward restoring this acreage to a more natural environmental state.

If this referendum is successful, the entirety of the 119 acres will be unavailable to the city and to Open Space and Mountain Parks.  

Decline to sign this petition to ensure the considerable expansion and restoration of city open space within an area which has been used by recreators for decades.

Usurps council’s responsibility. Boulder residents elect nine council members and charge them with an enormous responsibility to study/analyze issues of city importance, provide expert information for the public to review, provide ample time for public comment/suggestions and, finally, make their decisions. 

Annexations of lands into the city is the purview of city council and does not require a vote of the people. In fact, a 2006 initiative to allow residents to vote on annexations that exceeded five acres was defeated in a 60% to 40% vote.

As a way in which to ensure that the public has had ample opportunity to provide feedback and comments on both the annexation and flood protection projects, the city conducted extensive outreach about this project over the past two years. More than 95 public meetings have been held with neighbors, community members, city council and various city boards and commissions, according to a list compiled by city staff for the final annexation vote.

After years of council and CU working cooperatively on the flood protection/annexation project, the city has negotiated a remarkable agreement with numerous community benefits, not the least of which is flood protection for thousands of residents. Let’s trust and respect the good work they have done. It’s what we’ve asked them to do.

Allowing a small number of petition signatories to sideline such a critical project is neither compassionate nor good governance. I trust council’s decision on annexation to ensure that residents are safe from another catastrophic event that could occur at any time. By not signing this petition, you could be saving lives.

If you believe that council has taken the right action to protect residents from catastrophic flooding, please also vote ‘no’ on ballot measure 302.  

Kathie Joyner is a former resident of Boulder and was significantly impacted by the flood waters of South Boulder Creek in 2013.  She has advocated for South Boulder Creek flood protection since the 2013 flood as a volunteer and organizer with South Boulder Creek Action Group and Protect Our Neighbors, a group advocating a ‘no’ vote on Ballot Question 302.

Got a different take? Send your opinion to


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: