As flooding becomes an ever increasing threat to many in the Boulder area, the University of Colorado Boulder has proposed a partnership with the Boulder City Council to advance flood mitigation projects.
The university submitted an application for the annexation of 308-acres of university-owned property located at Table Mesa and U.S. Route 36 on Feb. 4. Of the 308 acres, up to 80 would be donated to the city for future flood prevention initiatives.
In the proposal, CU outlined several guiding principles that adhere to the council’s request should it take jurisdiction of the land. These guidelines include the university limiting development to only 129 of the 308 acres, keeping building height below 55-feet and having an emphasis on building housing for faculty, staff, upperclassmen and graduate students on the site.
It will be determined by the council as to what flood mitigation projects will be done with the donated land.
Frances Draper, CU Boulder’s vice chancellor for strategic relations, says CU’s donation of land would save the city $18 million should the land be annexed, a decision that has been discussed since 2015. However, talks of flood mitigation have gone on for over a decade.
According to Draper, the council has been reviewing ways to address flooding issues for 12 to 15 years.
“In all that time, nothing’s been done,” Draper said. “This is the first council that’s actively looked at several options, moved forward on looking at further designs and questions…that in itself is a big move forward.”
Draper referenced the 2013 100-year flood in Boulder county which destroyed 345 homes and caused the deaths of four people.
Derek Silva, CU executive director of real estate services, says the university and the city have spoken with residents of the south Boulder area near the land which is proposed to be annexed.
“They are legitimately concerned about their safety,” Silva said.
Originally, the land was purchased by the university to support it’s mission of “teaching and research” and would have been further developed after the completion of the Campus Master Plan. However, the council asked CU to put forward an annexation proposal as part of it’s plans to develop flood mitigation.
Draper says that after reviewing the plans with CU’s Board of Regents, the university identified flood mitigation as a public safety need and wants “whatever development we do to meld with the community.”
She hopes that the council will see the proposal as a “generous offer.”
Molly Scarbrough, senior project manager for flood mitigation for the city of Boulder, says that CU’s annexation application is currently under review by the council.
Scarbrough further explained that the proposal is part of a three phase plan by the council. Phase one, which Scarbrough says is dubbed “regional detention,” focuses specifically on reducing the potential for water to flood the U.S. 36 highway and is what the council is currently focusing on. Phases two and three, Scarbrough said, will address issues “further down stream” by identifying mitigation in areas such as Frasier Meadows.
Scarbrough says it has been a push to get preventative actions for flooding put in place. Scarbrough says that the current mitigation project by the council would protect against a 500-year storm and would reduce the risk of flooding for about 41,000 residence across 19,000 dwelling units.
“We have heard from members of the [Fraiser Meadows] community who are concerned about a similar flood to 2013 coming again,” Scarborough said, “and really wanting to push to get this project in place.”
For Draper, she encourages the council to “move quickly” in making a decision on CU’s offer, saying that the university is also a political body in the midst of change with the search for someone to replace President Bruce Benson.
“I don’t know what [the proposal] will look like down the road, I certainly hope it would be the same,” Draper said. “But we have changing political forces and appointees that could change that down the road. We would encourage [the council] not to push this to 2020.”
As of now, the council has yet to officially respond to CU’s annexation application and donation proposal.
Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Robert Tann at firstname.lastname@example.org