CU Boulder today asked the Boulder City Council to consider a flood mitigation option that would support both the community’s life safety needs and the university’s need to use a reasonable amount of its CU Boulder South property in the future to meet its mission to serve Colorado.
In a letter to council members (PDF), the university recommended that Boulder refrain from further investing in Variant I - 500, a flood mitigation option that would curtail the university’s future ability to develop its CU Boulder South property. Located at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive, the 308-acre parcel of university-owned land is under consideration for annexation into the Boulder city limits.
CU Boulder has recommended that the city seriously consider another plan—Variant II - 500—which was previously recommended by the city’s Water Resource Advisory Board and experts hired by the city.
If the university and city reach agreement on annexation terms, CU Boulder would use the property in the future to develop limited academic buildings and housing for faculty, staff, upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. Other planned uses include recreation fields, expanded hiking and biking trails and other value-added features for the Boulder and university communities.
In all, CU Boulder is seeking to develop just 129 acres of the site designated as public use in the most recent Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update, while 30 acres would be used for recreation fields. The university would donate 80 acres to the city for flood mitigation, with the balance remaining undeveloped.
Arriving at a mutually acceptable flood mitigation plan for the land is key to the agreement between the university and the city after years of ongoing discussions. In order to make progress in the negotiation process, city officials in November asked CU to submit an annexation application ahead of schedule. CU complied by filing an annexation application on Feb. 4.
The next day, city officials decided to move forward with a flood mitigation plan known as Variant I - 500, the only proposed flood mitigation plan among several considered by the city that the university repeatedly has said it cannot accept.
If the city moves forward with Variant 1 - 500, the university would not be able to develop the entire 129 acres allocated for public use on its own property, said Frances Draper, CU Boulder’s vice chancellor for strategic relations and communications.
“The university is dedicated to working with the city, and local residents whose homes are in the floodplain to achieve safety,” Draper said. “At the same time, we must be good stewards of the university’s resources for the benefit of the state of Colorado, to educate students and engage in research. The university has offered significant community benefits while striking a good balance to achieve effective use of this site to serve the needs of students in the coming decades.”
Despite its objection to the city’s intent to pursue Variant I - 500, CU worked to create a path forward in its annexation application by offering three options that would make it possible for CU to work with the city’s chosen flood mitigation plan.
However, in a March 28 response, the city made it clear none of CU Boulder’s alternatives would be feasible, precipitating the university’s response for a study session and further discussions.