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Some priorities suggested by Boulder City Council not feasible within the year; others require trade-offs

The City Council will officially set its priorities in a retreat this weekend

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At least partially because of staffing shortages, many of the 2022 priorities suggested by the Boulder City Council will take longer than expected to complete or would require shifting staff’s focus on other projects.

Ahead of its annual retreat, in which the City Council will officially set priorities for its 2022 work plan, city staff on Tuesday shared some of the initial scoping for the 45 ideas proposed by the City Council in last week’s study session.

Of those suggestions, City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said she expects the list to be pared down to about 10 to 15 that will be included in the work plan.

The presentation in Tuesday’s meeting included information about the size of the effort, whether similar work is happening, the soonest estimated start date and what might need to happen in order for staff to take on the project.

About a dozen priorities fell into the categories of attainable middle-income and affordable housing or homelessness. Nearly all of that work, particularly the priorities involving the city’s Planning and Development Services department, would require waiting until the city has hired additional staff members.

The department is in the process of bringing on new people, including a director after former director Jacob Lindsey departed in December.

Some of the housing-related priorities suggested by councilmembers include reorienting planning incentives away from large, expensive housing and toward compact, attainable and lower-carbon forms of housing; developing a strategy for attainable housing and middle-income housing; and working on an ordinance change allowing duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods.

Regarding its staffing concerns, Rivera-Vandermyde said “the root of the problem is manyfold.” She said the city is considering whether it’s offering competitive pay and benefits, and it also recognizes that more people want to live where they work and many city employees cannot afford to live in Boulder.

A number of councilmembers prioritized various projects related to transit, improving access to cycling and reducing the number of miles traveled by vehicles within the city.

In order to accomplish some of these ideas, such as a targeted measure to reduce miles traveled by vehicles, staff said it would need to scale back on similar initiatives such as the implementation of a low-stress network for biking and walking.

“The suggestion for what we might have to stop to make it happen (are) basically the things that I’m suggesting implementing,” Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend noted.

While many projects couldn’t happen until later in 2022 or even further down the road, this wasn’t the case for all of the priorities.

Some recommendations, such as initiating a management plan for the city-owned 110-acre Boulder County Poor Farm property, already are set to commence in 2022.

The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the presumed location of Fort Chambers, which was used as a militia training site for white settlers who participated in Colorado’s Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.

Mayor Aaron Brockett, who prioritized this, said he’d like to see a plan for returning land on site to the Indigenous people who first lived there and that the city should ensure members of the tribes play a role in land management and ownership.

Likewise, Director of Open Space and Mountain Parks Dan Burke agreed that Indigenous tribes must be consulted throughout the planning process and noted this might delay the project some.

Other recommendations, such as revising the city’s community benefit project, could be worked into the city’s current effort to change some of its codes, which is slated to happen some time in 2023, staff noted.

The full City Council discussion did not conclude by the Daily Camera’s print deadline. The Council will refine and consider its priorities in a two-day retreat Friday and Saturday.

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