At least half of the nine-member Boulder City Council seems to be leaning toward enacting tighter restrictions on out-of-scale homes.
Although the council hasn`t made any formal decisions about the proposed “compatible-development” ordinance, several council members late Tuesday night said they`d support a city staff proposal that`s more restrictive than the recommendations reached last month by the Boulder Planning Board.
For more than 18 months, the city has been studying the issue of large houses that loom over neighbors, and whether homes being “scraped” to make way for much larger ones negatively affects neighborhood character, privacy and open space.
The Planning Board said restrictions on house sizes should be limited to about 10,000 homes contained only within the city`s Residential-Low 1 zone. The city staff version would expand the scope by about 3,000 homes by including all residential zoning districts.
The Planning Board also suggested that building footprints should be allowed to cover up to 35 percent of lots, while the staff is calling for a 30 percent limit.
The allowable floor-area ratio — the proportion of finished square footage to lot size — should be 0.5 on a sliding scale, according to the Planning Board. City staffers, however, say floor-area ratios should be capped at 0.45, or about 350 square feet less on a typical 7,000-square-foot lot.
City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel led the charge to support the tougher regulations, offering a motion Tuesday night to approve the staff proposal on first reading with room to add certain tweaks.
“At this point, we have engaged in one of the most exhaustive public processes the city has ever embraced,” Morzel said Wednesday. “I`m trying to go in the middle, where I think is a compromise.”
The staff version, she said, mostly captures that compromise.
Councilman Macon Cowles also indicated his support for the staff version, calling it a “reasonable compromise.”
So did Councilwoman Susan Osborne, who said the year`s worth of work that`s gone into the proposal amounts to “almost a perfect process.”
She said she`s most concerned about the direct impacts — such as looming exterior walls — that remodels and new construction have on neighbors.
Deputy Mayor Crystal Gray is also supportive of tougher restrictions, but only as a starting point for discussion when the council returns to the matter Aug. 18.
Councilman Ken Wilson said young families are afraid that property values would be affected, and they wouldn`t have room to grow under tight restrictions.
“We all want to protect the value of our property,” he said. “On the other hand, none of us would want something really egregious built right next to us.”
Councilwoman Angelique Espinoza said she would not support anything more restrictive than the Planning Board`s recommendations. City Councilwoman Suzy Ageton had deeper concerns.
“I`m very nervous that what we have is a pretty crude understanding of how these tools are going to work together,” she said. “It is touching on just about every aspect of someone`s property.”
Mayor Matt Appelbaum said he`s on the fence about the ordinance, and that “there`s a lot more work to be done.”