BOULDER, Colo. –
Boulder’s planning officials said Thursday they’d like the city to do everything possible to preserve a section of land next to the Orchard Grove mobile home park.
Last summer, its owners tried to redevelop the property and convert the mobile home park at 30th and street and Valmont Road into condominiums and single-family homes. But following an outcry from park residents, the Boulder City Council agreed to rezone the park to allow mobile homes only.
But that left the fate of a five-acre parcel adjacent to the park up in the air. When city leaders last summer rezoned the 27-acre Orchard Grove park, they also instructed Boulder’s planning staff to look at options for rezoning the neighboring five acres, which currently allow for medium-density residential.
Planning officials have considered various options that would allow a range of uses for the site, from mobile homes only to high-density residential. The property’s owner, who didn’t speak during Thursday’s meeting, opposes the mobile-only proposal.
But dozens of park residents showed up at the meeting to urge the Planning Board to make that change, saying the land serves as a “wildlife corridor.”
Park resident Rita Bowman said the development of homes or condos on the site would ruin Orchard Grove’s character, and she asked board members to help preserve it.
“The loveliness of our community is astonishing. I know all my neighbors, up and down the streets. We get together to have potlucks and play cards,” she said. “The community character is unmatched, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Dozens of park residents gathered in the audience, with neon-green signs that read “Orchard Grove” pinned to their chests. During Planning Board meetings, attendees are asked to wave their hands to signal agreement with a speaker, rather than cheering or clapping.
After Bowman’s address, a sea of hands waved from the audience.
Board member Bill Holicky said he wanted his colleagues to support changing the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan to explicitly keep the space undeveloped.
In the years since Orchard Grove was built, he said, the city has required mobile home parks to provide their residents with more open space for recreation. For Orchard Grove residents, he said, it’s clear the undeveloped five-acre parcel has filled that need.
“I think it’s very reasonable, based on historic usage and practical usage, to view this as something that needs to be some kind of open space or recreational space,” he said. “I would not be adverse to looking at some other kind of zoning.”
Board member Elise Jones said she doesn’t want to rule out the possibility of the city creating an entirely new zoning category, as some park residents have suggested to keep the five-acre parcel open as an “urban habitat area.”
“If it’s developed, it should be developed as a mobile home park,” Jones said. “But I’m not sure I want to see it developed at all.”
Board member Adrian Sopher said he agrees that the park would benefit from keeping lots of land that’s available for open space and recreation. But, he said, changing the rules to make the property owner provide it wouldn’t be fair.
“I feel like the city has a responsibility to provide that, not a single property owner,” he said.
David Gehr, an assistant city attorney, said the city would likely be obligated to buy the park if it changed land-use rules to preclude any development on the site.
The Planning Board unanimously agreed to recommend to the City Council that Boulder tackle the land-use question during an update to the comprehensive plan scheduled for later this year. During that process, they agreed, the city should keep the parcel zoned for mobile homes — or explore the possibility of its purchase, either by the city or a nonprofit.
Keep Your Mitts Off Orchard Grove Video
Jeff Cushing and Brenda Truelson Fox of Zero to Sixty Productions went to Orchard Grove during July and spoke with a number of residents about their concerns regarding the potential redevelopment of the park. In this second installment in the ongoing Orchard Grove story, residents turned activists unite in their fight to save their homes and the homes of bobcat, coyote, and fox from destruction. The struggle intensifies as an entrenched owner refuses to sell while Orchard Grover residents network in a high-tech campaign. “Keep Your Mitts Off Orchard Grove” shows real people not only fighting to keep their homes, but empowering themselves to create something greener, better, and more sustainable.
Zero to Sixty Productions is currently raising funds to expand this video into a longer documentary that takes a look at current developments regarding trailer parks and new urbanism, environmental sustainability, foreclosures, low-income housing, and the on-going housing crisis.