Tuesday, October 02, 2007

If Only Colbert Was Running for City Council

by Osman Parvez
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There are currently 21 candidates running for City Council in Boulder. 21 for 7 open slots! Not only is this unusually high, but what other small city in America gets local election coverage in the Daily Kos (a popular political blog which receives up to 5 million visits a week)?

In the past few months, there have been opportunities to meet candidates and consider the issues. From forums and debates, we know a little about what they think. We know who has endorsed their candidacy. We even know precisely where they live - on a Google Map, no less.

And there's more to come...

Recently, a neighborhood forum was put together highlighting the differences between the candidates. Questions were posed, many of which directly relate to local real estate and development. Candidates were asked how they might further restrict and shape growth, including leverage points around the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), rental units, affordable housing, zoning, and variances.

Take for instance the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). This is a ratio of the floor area of a building divided by the lot size. At this time the residential FAR limit is 0.8. The more aggressive interests want to cut that in half. The 2008 proposed city budget has an $80,000 line item to conduct a study that would be completed around next summer after which a formal proposal to limit home size and expansions will be reviewed by the Planning Board and City Council. After the expected debates and discussions, it's likely to be reduced to the 0.6 to 0.65 range.

The neighborhood forum asked the candidates whether the city should lower the maximum floor area ratio. Here's how they shaped up:

YES
Macon Cowles, Crystal Gray, Andrew Harrison, Philip Hernandez, Nabil Karkamaz, Kathryn Kramer, Lisa Morzel, Alan O'Hashi, Susan Osborne, Eugene Pearson, Susan Peterson, Larry Quilling, Tom Riley, Rob Smoke, Ken Wilson

NO
Philip Bradley, Shawn Coleman, Eric Rutherford

MAYBE
Matt Applebaum (likely YES, in my opinion), Angelique Espinoza (likely NO, in my opinion), Adam Massey (opaque).

In the opinion of this blogger... there are more effective ways to shape neighborhood development than reductions to a simple floor area ratio. I'm disinclined to vote for any candidate who thinks hacking the FAR is the easiest solution. Yes, of course new and remodeled homes should take into account the neighborhood characteristics. There are and should continue to be ways for neighbors to influence aspects of the design. But cutting the FAR in half on top of what already exists is a knee jerk reaction by those who don't want Boulder to evolve and change.

Perhaps you feel the same. Perhaps you disagree.

If you live in Boulder, you have until October 9th to register to vote. The election ballots are due on November 6th.

For continuing coverage of the election, turn to the usual sources of news and information but be sure to also visit the Liberal and Loving It, brought to you by local blogger David Thielen.


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