The process by which a municipality incorporates territory is annexation. If annexed, the CU South property would come under the city’s jurisdiction like the other campuses, and utility and other city services could be extended to site. Annexation would not mean the city would own the site.

The CU South property is owned by the University of Colorado Boulder. University master planning for CU South is several years away. However, significant flooding events in the area have prompted the city to expeditiously pursue a flood mitigation project that requires a portion of the CU South site; that portion of the property only becomes available to the city with annexation of the entire CU South site. As a result, the draft annexation agreement contains development standards that control the type and intensity of future development, but not the exact type and location that a traditional site plan would detail.

The draft agreement contains terms for the city to have a review and comment process on the CU Boulder South Master Plan when that is available. The city will also have a 60-day window to review and comment on 90 percent conceptual design plans for the property. The city’s comments will include a “compliance review” to ensure compliance with the annexation agreement and discretionary comments intended to further the city’s goals and policies.

The annexation agreement is still being negotiated and is expected to move forward to a council vote. If the annexation agreement is executed prior to the election, the initiative would not have effect. If the initiative passes and the annexation agreement has not been executed, the initiative would apply to any future annexation agreement.

The annexation process is both legislative and contractual in nature. The terms of annexation, memorialized through an annexation agreement, need to be agreed to by both the city and owner of the property being annexed.

The draft agreement contains terms to address the following: city’s first right of refusal for any offer by a third party to purchase all or portions of CU Boulder South; terms of the agreement remaining in effect if the property were ever sold to a non-university entity; annexation contingent on flood mitigation approvals and land needed to implement the project; and a “de-annexation” process within 3-5 years if the required approvals and land are not obtained.

The city may initiate a “de-annexation” process if it fails to receive the required approvals and land necessary for the project, referred to in the agreement as the “Three-Year Anniversary”. The anniversary timeline may be extended for up to two consecutive years to account for any unforeseen delays in permitting.

In evaluating financial aspects related to water, staff estimated the city could receive roughly $25M in utility Plant Investment Fees (PIFs) for water, including irrigation; wastewater; and stormwater/flood for CU South. Rather than receiving financial compensation for the irrigation portion of the PIFs (roughly estimated at $5M), the city will instead receive the 30.2 Dry Creek Ditch No. 2 (DC2) ditch shares.  

In considering the water quantity aspects of the agreement, the city will provide 140 acre-feet of municipal water to the university in exchange for the 30.2 DC2 shares. The annual average headgate delivery of 30.2 DC2 shares to the university is 140 acre-feet. The city has sufficient water to be able to meet this demand in non-drought years and the agreement allows the city to call back the 140 AF during a declared drought. 

The current CU South parcel is 308 in total, of which a total of 129-acres in the area is anticipated for university development. Within that there are restrictions in place to prevent the entirety of the 129-acres from being developed. Draft terms include the dedication of 155 acres to the city for flood protection and open space uses, the transfer of water rights to the city needed for habitat restoration, development phasing that prioritizes housing, and continued public access to the site. It also contains numerous binding covenants that set limits on building sizes, heights and locations as well as an actively managed multi-modal traffic plan. 

The agreement includes a commitment to provide up to five acres of the property to an affordable housing development for permanent, deed-restricted affordable housing on CU Boulder South. The university anticipated a yield of 100 – 110 affordable units.

The intent of the proposed annexation terms is to ensure that the needs generated by future development on CU Boulder South do not unduly impact the transportation networks that serve the community, including the CU-South property.

A trip cap program will be established that defines a maximum number of daily automobile trips to and from the site. The total trip count was derived from a traffic impact study submitted by the university and limits trips to 5,550 daily trips for South Loop Drive and 750 daily trips for State Highway 93. The university will be responsible for annually monitoring daily trips and submitting specific data to the city. The city and university are currently discussion when to commence annual monitoring for the Trip Cap program, as initial phases will not near the cap. The university will have 90 days to communicate its strategies for reducing trips if a monitoring report shows a violation, followed by 180 days to implement its strategies. The annual traffic monitoring increased to quarterly monitoring.

Off-site improvements will be constructed by the university. The city and university are actively discussing the specific improvements necessary to mitigate impacts from future development, including:

  • A cost sharing arrangement for a new multi-use path underpass under Table Mesa Drive connecting the RTD Park-n-Ride lot to Thunderbird Drive.

  • Other improvements identified in the university’s traffic impact analysis.

What are the costs to the city for earth fill in the Development Zone?

City staff have developed an alternative fill layout that reduces the volume of fill and associated cost from $10 M to $3M. The alternative layout utilizes a roadway embankment for South Loop Drive to the 500-yr flood elevation along the boundary between the Development Zone and Flood Control Zone. Fill will then be placed on the landward side of the embankment to allow for connectivity across the road embankment

Will the cost of the South Boulder Creek Project be added to my monthly water bill?

Yes. A portion of monthly utility bills will be used to pay for South Boulder Creek Flood Mitigation in partnership with the Mile High Flood District. Each year, utility rates are considered for Boulder’s three utilities (water, wastewater and stormwater & flood) through the annual Capital Improvement Projects process and ultimately determined by city council through the annual budget process. The 2021 rate increases resulted in an approximate total monthly increase of about $8 for the average single-family residence, of which about $2 is attributable to the Stormwater and Flood Utility portion of the utility bill that is used to fund a range of improvements throughout the city.

The flood control zone area consists of 60 acres along the north portion of the site, consistent with the BVCP Park, Urban and Other (PK-U/O) land use and is intended to include public lands used for a variety of active and passive recreational purposes and for flood control purposes. The city and university will jointly consider a formal running track and dog park with public access. 

CU Boulder will dedicate a portion (currently estimated at 44 acres) of the Open Space Zone as part of its 80-acre dedication. The draft agreement contains several terms to address environmental protection including: the ability for the city to purchase an additional 75 acres of land in the Open Space Zone; city and CU collaboration to restore and protect wildlife habitat and develop a comprehensive environmental mitigation plan within the Open Space Zone; compliance with city wetlands regulations, noise and lighting standards and restrictions on development in the 500-year floodplain; and plantings to screen buildings and built infrastructure in the Development Zone from viewsheds on city open space. 

More specific environmental mitigation measures could also be determined as a condition of the Open Space Board of Trustees and City Council or as determined in the preliminary design and permitting phase of the flood mitigation project.

Not necessarily. The addition of a new fire station on the CU South campus does not commit Boulder to closing Station 4 (Table Mesa – Darley Ave.). More analysis is needed on public safety needs to know what coverage is needed. Regardless of the final decision, the city's objective would be to maximize all-hazards coverage for all citizens. It is too soon to understand what response times will look like under a CU South scenario and any projections on impact are premature. Station 4, along with Station 2 at Baseline and Broadway, are both in serious need of upgrades and relocation because of service challenges and existing property constraints. To prepare location recommendations, staff models current and expected demand, types of risk, and response time as the main factors.

City Council had an initial discussion about a potential "land swap" during a study session in early 2020. That discussion focused on an area known as “Area III – Planning Reserve”, which is about 500 acres of land in North Boulder on the north side of US 36 (area north of and including Atlas Flooring and the Gateway Park Fun Center). The city owns some of this land but much of it is privately owned.

Although council recognized that the Planning Reserve concept might have potential when looked at separate from other factors, when considered alongside impacts to the flood mitigation timeline, the university’s interests, and impacts to other city priorities, the idea seemed less of a viable option. Specifically, the university indicated that they are unable to realistically consider the Planning Reserve as a potential alternative without the land first becoming eligible for annexation (which could take several years). The Planning Reserve was not deemed a realistic alternative because of related delays to the flood mitigation process and the numerous unknown factors in the review process for the Planning Reserve.