City, university release a final review draft (99%) of the agreement for CU Boulder South Annexation project

The updated agreement incorporates several significant newly negotiated terms

The City of Boulder and the University of Colorado Boulder have released a final review draft (99%) of the annexation agreement for the CU Boulder South property, highlighting final proposed terms to be voted on by City Council later this month. The proposed agreement is the culmination of years of collaboration among the city, county, university and community to provide flood protection for downstream Boulder community members, protect and restore critical riparian habitat and manage well-planned housing-centered development on a limited portion of the site.

The updated agreement incorporates several significant newly negotiated terms made in response to feedback from the community, City Council, Planning Board, the Transportation Advisory Board, Boulder County officials and others since an initial draft was released on July 12. The new version will receive only minor non-substantive edits and revisions prior to being finalized for inclusion in the City Council packet, and is being released now to provide ample opportunity for public review of terms prior to City Council’s second reading and public hearing scheduled for Sept. 14. City Council deliberation and a final vote are slated for Sept. 21. City Council approved the annexation agreement on first reading on Aug. 10, and the University of Colorado Board of Regents on Aug. 13 authorized CU Boulder leadership to execute the agreement once finalized with the city.

Community members wishing to speak during the Sept. 14 City Council public hearing, which will be held virtually, may register online. Community members may also email the council at

The city and university hosted four community briefings and listening sessions following the release of the initial draft, and the city conducted a Be Heard Boulder questionnaire to provide community members opportunities to share their feedback on the agreement. That is in addition to review by multiple boards and commissions, as well as a Planning Board public hearing that resulted in Planning Board making several recommendations to City Council for consideration.

Significant updates to the annexation agreement based on feedback during the public review period include:

  • A 10-year prohibition on sale of the property to a third party.
  • Extended timelines that align with city processes to better accommodate the city’s right of first offer (ROFO) to purchase the property.
  • A 10-year cap on the value of the property for the city’s ROFO.
  • A new city right of second refusal to purchase the property within two years of declining an offer.
  • Limitations and conditions on the sale of the site to a third party that is not a university affiliate, including a 45% affordable housing requirement.
  • A defined list of uses allowed if the property were to be transferred to an owner other than a university affiliate.
  • A 50% reduced limit (to 2,000 square feet) on the square footage per housing unit that the university is allowed to apply in calculating the minimum 2-to-1 ratio of housing versus non-housing development.
  • A prohibition on the university connecting to utilities prior to the expiration of the city’s de-annexation option period.
  • A limit on the number of nighttime events at lighted recreation facilities.
  • A requirement that all lighted recreation and event facilities must comply with a minimum setback of 250 feet from the state natural area and existing dwelling units on adjacent properties.
  • A requirement that the university employs physical and technological measures, such as radio frequency identification (RFID)-activated gates, to prevent use of the roadways on the property as a bypass between Highway 93 and Foothills Parkway.
  • A requirement that development of the site be phased from north to south and that construction of access to the site from Highway 93 will not occur until development occurs on the southern half of CU Boulder’s developable area.
  • A commitment by the university and city that the Vision Zero Action Plan will inform future design and construction of State Highway 93 access.
  • The university will pay a transportation fee to the city, assessed at the time of development, for each residential unit and each square foot of non-residential space.

The CU Boulder South Annexation Agreement is a legal document that explicitly sets forth the requirements and conditions for the annexation of 308 acres of university-owned 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.

“The comprehensive agreement that we’ve developed in partnership with CU Boulder will enable us to realize several essential community needs: flood threat mitigation for vulnerable residents, protection of emergency access during flooding events, high-value habitat preservation and restoration and housing for university students, faculty and staff,” said Mayor Sam Weaver. “We could not have arrived at this fair and holistic proposal without the robust input from our community, and we look forward to working with all parties to implement our shared community values.”

“We appreciate the collaborative negotiations with the city and the robust community feedback process over the course of several years that have refined this agreement to ensure it embodies values that the community and university share,” CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said. “The agreement promotes life safety for the community and helps the university achieve an equitable and sustainable future in which our students, faculty and staff can live as proud members of the Boulder community in which they work and study. I’m also pleased that this agreement preserves open space and includes innovative transportation solutions that will help us meet our climate goals.”

CU Boulder and the city have long agreed on the provision of housing for faculty, staff and non-first-year 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.

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 revised its application twice since then in response to the city’s refined flood protection plans and public input prior to the annexation agreement being drafted.

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 aspects of the agreement include:

  • 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 will always be 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 agreement is approved, 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 99% final review draft of the 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.