Referendum that could repeal CU South annexation agreement submitted to city

City clerk has until Nov. 1 to determine if the signatures are sufficient


Assuming at least 3,336 of more than 6,000 submitted signatures are deemed sufficient by the city clerk, Boulder residents opposed to the CU South project have garnered the support necessary to force a vote that could repeal the recently approved annexation agreement.

The agreement, which guides flood mitigation and development at the 308-acre CU South site owned by the University of Colorado Boulder, was approved Sept. 21 by Boulder City Council in a 6-1 vote. Two City Council members recused themselves due to previous employment with the university.

The annexation agreement was passed as an emergency measure, at least partially out of an expectation that the referendum officially submitted Thursday was imminent. City officials said during last month’s hearing that doing so would allow initial permitting work for the South Boulder Creek flood mitigation project to continue. In exchange for annexing the land into Boulder city limits and providing city services, CU Boulder gave the city the land it needed for the work.

A referendum such as the one for which signatures were submitted Thursday is a city charter provision that allows people to reject a legislative matter passed by Council.

Now that the signatures have been submitted, the city clerk has until Nov. 1 to review the petition for sufficiency. If it’s deemed insufficient, the committee will have 10 days to gather additional signatures. If it’s approved, the matter will be on the ballot in the next municipal election in 2022.

This is not the only matter related to CU South that is set for a vote. Many of the same people who worked on the referendum — primarily representatives from PLAN-Boulder County and Save South Boulder — earlier this year gathered enough signatures to place a separate measure on the ballot this November.

The ballot measure includes language that would allow the flood mitigation work to continue but would require a vote ahead of approval of the agreement and would stipulate that the annexation agreement must include specific details such as a site plan.

City staff have previously said the impending ballot measure would be moot if passed, since City Council already approved the annexation agreement.

However, PLAN-Boulder co-chair Peter Mayer argued the referendum, if it’s successful, makes the ballot measure “absolutely relevant” since it would repeal the annexation agreement approved last month.

“It’s very important that Boulder have the opportunity to have a fair up or down vote on a matter of such great importance to our community,” Mayer said.

Others feel differently. Protect Our Neighbors is one local group opposing the ballot measure. In an earlier interview with the Camera, some of the group’s leaders said requiring a vote is a means of slowing down the process. The flood mitigation project, which would protect those living in one of the areas most impacted during Boulder’s 2013 flood, is the primary driver for those who oppose the referendum and ballot measure.

“Letting folks vote on whether 2,300 people should be left in harm’s way doesn’t seem like the right thing to do,” group member Jon Carroll said.