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1422 55th St. in Boulder is seen on Friday, May 20, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
1422 55th St. in Boulder is seen on Friday, May 20, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Boulder is continuing to work toward a compromise with a developer who wants to alter affordable housing requirements outlined in an annexation agreement to construct for-sale homes on a 55th Street property.

The property at 1422 55th St. contains a 2,000-square-foot home with some additional structures on site. It’s bordered to the north and south by single-family homes and to the east by Flatirons Golf Course.

The applicant, Michael Bosma, with Rubicon Development, is looking to develop the site with for-sale homes. However, it’s part of a 1999 annexation agreement that requires a percentage of the new units built on site to be affordable.

“When the applicant approached the city to discuss the affordable housing requirements, it became apparent to both the applicant and to staff that there were difficulties implementing the requirements on such a relatively small site,” Senior Planner Sloane Walbert said in Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The current proposal would amend the affordable housing requirement. Among other things, the developer is offering cash-in-lieu of building on-site affordable housing, proposing contributing $25,000 per unit for the first five years and then paying cash-in-lieu according to the city code after that.

City staff supports the idea.

From their view, the amendment would create market-rate for-sale housing, consistent with the city’s middle-income housing strategy while also providing money for permanently affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

“The current housing market in the city is driving the construction of almost entirely rental housing, and the city has identified the need for more home ownership opportunities appropriate for middle-income households,” Walbert said.

The applicant also is working with the city on the 30th Street property Boulder is planning to use for its new fire station.

Don Altman, with Altman Consulting, a member of the applicant’s team who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he would be OK to provide cash in lieu for affordable housing as well as to include provisions in the annexation agreement related to conveyance of the future fire station property.

But he was less amenable to committing to building smaller homes or maintaining middle-income housing — some ideas proposed by the City Council.

“I’m being asked to give up another property. I’m being asked to shrink the homes, raise the cash-in-lieu fees, keep the prices at middle income,” Altman said. “That’s all stuff that just doesn’t work for any affordable project in Boulder unless the city is injecting significant funds, and I haven’t asked that.”

Initially, the matter was on the consent agenda during the March 15 Boulder City Council meeting, but the Council voted to consider it during a public hearing.

On Tuesday, it decided to continue the public hearing and have staff and the applicant continue working on it.

Some councilmembers continued to express concerns.

“In my 2.5 years on Council, this is the most problematic transaction I have ever had to review,” Councilmember Mark Wallach said. “This is an individual who wants to pay 1999 cash-in-lieu prices and sell homes at 2022 prices. He does not want to cap the size of them, so we have no idea whether they will be truly middle-income.”