After tracing the second phase of the community project last month, Boulder City Council is exploring easier ways to provide affordable commercial space for nonprofits, small businesses, arts and culture, or human services.
Boulder’s planning staff suggested a number of ways the city could still get affordable commercial space in a city council meeting Tuesday, the original intent outlined in phase two of the project. Most of the conversation ended after the camera finished printing.
The work builds on the October 2019 city council approval for the initial stage of the community project, which requires developers to build a higher percentage of affordable housing if they get additional building height or more square feet.
In general, the planning staff offered four options with regard to affordable commercial space: simplifying the original regulation presented last month, examining the creation of a capital program for affordable commercial space, examining the introduction of a consumption tax on bonus space and maintaining the current social benefits.
If the city council is looking for a quick fix to get the second phase of the community project passed, the staff recommended choosing option one that would allow for an affordable commercial space compensation fee as a compliance option at the developer’s discretion.
“This is the fastest way to value an affordable commercial fund. It would complete the joint project, ”said senior planner Karl Guiler to the council on Tuesday.
If it wanted to find a new funding mechanism for an affordable commercial fund, staff recommended option three, which would raise funds from a new excise tax on the affordable commercial fund. It would require approval from Boulder voters.
“It’s potentially risky as it may not get voter approval,” Guiler said.
The council has indicated in previous meetings its intention to naturally phase out the city’s moratorium on requests for height restrictions up to Boulder’s 55-foot limit on August 31st, and work on the various stages of the charity project.
However, when the moratorium ends, the planners realized that there was limited space in Boulder suitable for taller buildings and all projects would go through the traditional public planning process. Most zoning districts allow up to 35 feet and some up to 38 feet after city-wide caps passed in 2017.
“If the card goes away, it means the entire city is open to the possibility of applicants from anywhere in the city submitting applications,” Guiler said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll see changes in elevation in all parts of the city. We didn’t see them in all parts of the city before 2015. “
Councilor Mark Wallach was one of the project’s biggest skeptics. On Tuesday, he said he was concerned about creating another cash pot for affordable commercial space without doing the real estate studies to prove its impact.
“When we have a commercial building, we get funding because we have an affordable commercial property connection fee that is backed by a Nexus study,” he said.