A street sign leading into Celestial Seasonings in Boulder.

Northeast Boulder residents fear their neighborhood will be transformed for the worse and further inundated with unmanageable traffic from a 268-unit apartment development proposed last month adjacent to the Celestial Seasonings headquarters.

The tea business owns the vacant land being eyed for the new housing, according to Boulder County records. The project as currently proposed would designate 25% of its units on site as affordable to households making certain fractions of the area median income.

A handful of residents of the Orchard Creek single-family neighborhood nearby Celestial shared their concerns Wednesday about the housing project, which could include 12 buildings of two and three stories with a mix of studios, one-bedroom two-bedroom and three-bedroom units and 8,000 square feet of community amenity space, according to documents submitted to the city.

“I think about the roads. It is really, really rough for people now to get on Colo. 119 to go farther into Boulder or to Longmont,” resident Julie Dye said. “You have to wait through cycles and cycles of lights. What is the breaking point? There needs to be a conversation around that.”

Dye and others also expressed frustration with what they perceive as a lack of municipal services to the Gunbarrel area, as it does not include a Boulder library or recreation center, and fear that increased traffic caused by the housing development will make cycling on Jay Road into the city more dangerous.

“Our community is not serviced enough for them to add even more population and density in our neighborhood,” Chris Goodman said. “… If it’s apartment buildings where people are all renters, that creates a different scenario than condominiums where people have a sense of ownership. … I want us all to be able to happily live here together, I don’t want to exclude anyone, but I feel underrepresented. It’s such an emotional thing that they’re thinking about changing the place we go to walk around and just be.”

An analysis of vehicle trips likely to be generated by the housing development, submitted to the city by a consultant for the developer, shows it would generate less trips than the alternative use of the land as an office space or medical office; the area is zoned as Industrial-Manufacturing.

Areas with such zoning are “primarily used for research, development, manufacturing and service industrial uses in buildings on large lots. Residential uses and other complementary uses may be allowed in appropriate locations,” city code states.

According to the analysis by the developer’s consultant, total one-way vehicle trips expected to be generated by the housing on the average weekday are 1,570, versus 2,177 for the alternative land use.

“I’m not opposed to this development as long as it can be shown that there is a plan in place, before the project commences, to deal with the increase in traffic and that it won’t negatively impact the property values of the surrounding area by lowering them or slowing their rate of increase,” area resident Bruce Riggins said.

The developer, Coburn Partners, says the housing would help stabilize the perceived imbalance of housing and jobs in Boulder.

“This proposal will exchange jobs for housing … turning a potential 170,000-plus square feet of commercial (space), which could equate to around 500-plus jobs, into 268 residential units, 68 of which would be designated as permanently affordable,” the developer stated in its submission to the city. “The fundamental goal for the project is to create a well-integrated development, both internally and externally, that will dovetail well with the surrounding Gunbarrel community.”

The housing project is currently in a city concept plan review, a process the developer has elected, but is not required, to go through to gather additional feedback prior to submitting a more detailed site review plan, which will lead to a city decision on the proposal.

The Boulder Planning Board is set to hold a March 19 hearing on the concept plan. The body originally planned to review the housing project in April, but the date moved forward after a new agenda item was added to the April meeting.

“Comments received throughout the (concept) review process are intended to be advisory for the applicant to consider prior to submitting a detailed site review proposal,” Boulder Senior Planner Sloane Walbert said.

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