The City of Boulder and the University of Colorado Boulder on Monday released a draft annexation agreement for the CU Boulder South property. This proposed agreement is the culmination of years of collaboration among the city, county, university and community to provide flood protection for downstream Boulder residents, protect and restore critical riparian habitat, and manage well-planned housing-centered development on a limited portion of the site. This draft document is being released for public review and comment at a stage prior to agreement terms being finalized in order to consider feedback from boards and commissions as well as local residents and businesses.

The CU Boulder South Annexation Agreement is a legal document that explicitly sets the requirements and conditions for the annexation of 308 acres of CU Boulder land at the junction of U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive into the city. Terms include the university’s commitment to the transfer 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 multimodal traffic plan.

CU Boulder and the city have long agreed on the provision of housing for faculty, staff and non-freshman students as the predominant use of the site, helping to make a meaningful impact on the severe housing shortage in the Boulder community. Along with housing for CU affiliates, the draft agreement includes the dedication of five acres of the site for development of permanently affordable housing available to all who qualify in the Boulder community, not just university affiliates.

“This draft agreement comes after many rounds of community engagement and input, as well as years of planning analysis, and further builds on prior decisions by City Council,” said Director of Planning and Development Services Jacob Lindsey. “While the negotiations addressed multiple topics in great detail, it is time for the community, boards and the City Council to assess the agreement as a whole and determine if it achieves critical city goals and includes needed safeguards to assure benefit and protection to Boulder residents.”

“We’re excited for this major milestone as we work toward a path forward at CU Boulder South that incorporates so many of our shared values, including flood protection for the community, much-needed workforce and student housing, preservation of open space and valuable habitat, and continued recreational use for the public,” said Derek Silva, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Business Strategy at CU Boulder. “The release of this draft annexation agreement embodies years of collaboration between the city, the university and the community, and we’re so appreciative of everyone who has played a role in helping us get to this point.”

Community members are invited to share feedback on key agreement topics through a Be Heard Boulder questionnaire, open July 14 to Aug. 13. The city will also host a community briefing and listening session on Wednesday, July 14, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. More information about the session and a link to the meeting can be found on the project webpage. This meeting will be recorded and posted online for those unable to attend.

Additional community engagement opportunities and key dates include:

The agreement will go through several rounds of feedback and recommendations to City Council from the city Planning Board and Transportation Advisory Board, and may be amended before being considered by City Council. City Council will review the draft agreement in three rounds and make a final decision in September 2021. In addition to City Council, the agreement also requires CU Board of Regents approval later this summer.

In 2015, after years of floodplain studies and flood mitigation project planning that identified a portion of CU Boulder South as ideal for protecting downstream residents, the city invited the university to bring the property into the 2015 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) update process to begin making the site eligible for annexation. Following the BVCP update approvals in 2017 by City Council, Boulder Planning Board, the Boulder County Commissioners and Boulder County Planning Commission, the university submitted its annexation application in February 2019. The university has revised its application twice since in response to refined flood protection plans and public input.

The draft annexation agreement codifies numerous values shared by the university and community, providing explicit and legally binding assurance to the community regarding what the university can and cannot develop.

Key among the alignment reached to date and outlined in the annexation agreement:

  • The university’s commitment to the transfer of 155 acres to the city for flood protection and open space. This includes the original commitment of 80 acres for flood mitigation and open space, plus an option for the city to purchase an additional 75 acres for open space.
  • City construction of flood protection for 2,300 downstream Boulder residents and 1,100 homes.
  • The preservation of 119 acres overall for permanent open space, and the transfer of the needed water rights for habitat rehabilitation and maintenance.
  • A limit on future development to 129 acres of the 308-acre parcel, with no development allowed within the 500-year floodplain.
  • Restrictions on density and intensity of future development.
  • A required minimum 2-to-1 square footage ratio of housing to non-housing buildings to ensure that housing is always the predominant use.
  • A 750,000-square-foot cap on the amount of non-housing development allowed.
  • No non-residential development is allowed prior to the construction of at least 150 units of housing.
  • The dedication of five acres for the development of permanently affordable housing available to all who qualify, not just university affiliates.
  • Preservation and protection of valuable wetlands and natural habitat, including lands near the sensitive state habitat area.
  • The implementation of performance-based transportation plans and trip caps to limit future traffic.
  • The creation of a multimodal hub with connections to the larger transportation network.
  • Dedication of two acres of land for a potential public safety facility.
  • Provision of continued shared recreation uses for the community and university, including parks, trails and fields.

If the annexation is completed, the university will embark on a master planning effort around its future site plans before any development begins. CU Boulder development at the site would not occur until after the city’s flood protection project is built. The city would maintain review and comment periods for those site plans as well as for each phase of future development at CU Boulder South to ensure compliance with the binding annexation agreement.

For more information, view the draft annexation agreement or visit the city’s CU Boulder South Annexation project webpage, the city’s South Boulder Creek Flood Mitigation Project webpage or the University of Colorado’s CU South Annexation page.