Daily Camera editorial: “City Council is blocking critical flood control”
Onset of the wet season highlights the threat of flooding faced by residents in south Boulder, and a letter delivered last week from the University of Colorado to the city of Boulder reminds constituents of the City Council’s bungled effort to reduce that threat.
CU and the city must work together to complete critical flood mitigation on property the university owns. But the city is pursuing a plan that CU has warned, over and over, is dead in the water. CU officials felt compelled on Monday to reiterate this message in writing. They cautioned the city not to waste any more time and money on a plan the university can’t accept.
City officials should listen.
During a meeting last August, six of the nine Council members took a look at the flood mitigation concept to which planners awarded the highest marks for meeting project goals and which was developed through eight years and $2 million worth of study, including professional consultation, community feedback, advisory board analysis and countless hours of staff time, and tossed it overboard. Some Council members said a main concern they had with the Variant 2 500-year concept was that flood debris could clog the South Boulder Creek underpass at U.S. 36 and create conditions for residential flooding. But experts, relying on studies and professional experience, repeatedly asserted that such a risk was low. No matter. The Council majority ignored this advice, offering little justification for their doubt beyond expressions of gut feelings. Then-Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano — Grano and Councilmen Bob Yates and Aaron Brockett were the three dissenters — could hardly contain her frustration. “I’m confused,” she said. “We just spent an hour and a half listening to experts tell us it’s not an issue.”
There has long been a hope among some community members, especially in certain south Boulder neighborhoods, that the CU South property could remain open space. And some university critics have faulted CU for what they view as a calculating move in 1996 to buy the property, a former gravel mine, and program it for development despite known complications related to the proximity of a flood-prone waterway. This is not a trivial complaint, and an undeveloped CU South forms a dramatic, natural gateway to the city from the south.
But City Council must make decisions based on present circumstances and contemporary needs, and if Council members themselves harbored ill will toward CU for machinations that occurred more than 20 years ago, such grievance was not part of the majority’s stated opposition to an otherwise promising plan. So what’s going on? It’s hard not to assume that political pressure from anti-development interests is behind at least some of the Council majority’s obduracy.
Whatever the reason for Variant 2’s rejection, it was entirely predictable that pursuit of Variant 1 would lead to the current impasse. CU told the Council it would not participate in Variant 1 500-year. Council chose Variant 1 500-year anyway. Yet it’s as true today as it was last August — no CU participation, no Variant 1 500-year.
What happens now?
Click through to read the full piece: City Council is blocking critical flood control at CU South.