A summary of upcoming proposed changes to city codes

Here is a look ahead at upcoming proposed code changes, what they mean for community members and how to get involved.

City code determines how and where building and other activities can happen in the city. Right now, several changes to the code are up for consideration. These potential changes will impact the community's future.

Upcoming Code Changes

Oil and Gas Regulations

Oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing “fracking,” along the Front Range has increased significantly in recent years. These activities can pose dangers to the community, including declines in air and water quality, human health risks and ecosystem damage.  

Colorado law does not allow local jurisdictions to prohibit oil and gas operations. Despite this, the state law was updated in 2019 to enable local jurisdictions to draft regulations intended to protect public health, welfare and safety.

Boulder’s proposed regulations are in the process of being drafted with this additional local authority in mind and are targeted for completion before the end of the moratorium on any oil and gas drilling permits, which currently expires on Dec. 31, 2021.

While very few properties in the city would be eligible based on state setback requirements, the city finds it important to adopt the regulations. For consistency, city staff is considering adopted regulations that are very similar to Boulder County’s recently adopted regulations.

Upcoming Conversations:

  • Ask your questions about Oil and Gas Regulation code changes at our drop-in office hours on Nov. 9 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Comments can be made during the Planning Board public hearing on Nov. 4, or may be sent to the board at Boulderplanningboard@bouldercolorado.gov.
  • City Council is scheduled to review the draft ordinance on first reading on Nov. 16 and on second reading at its Dec. 14 public hearing.

Site Review criteria update

Site Review criteria are quality standards that larger projects in the City of Boulder must meet, based on their size and potential impact, to be approved. City staff are currently working to revise the criteria to be more clear, less redundant and more prescriptive to increase the level of predictability in projects.

The criteria are also being updated to achieve better design outcomes – especially in buildings that are proposed with height modifications over a zoning district height limit, typically 35', but no taller than the city charter limit of 55'. Incorporation of some Form Based Code (FBC) standards are being considered since such standards are more prescriptive. FBC provides predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the guiding principle.

Several potential density modifications are also up for consideration:

  • Waive density requirements for any permanently affordable units in the Business Community, Business Regional and the Residential – High 5 zones.
  • Allow requests for open space reductions in the Downtown, Mixed Use – 3 and Business Main Street zones where the open space would conflict with the desire to have mercantile buildings up to the sidewalk.
  • A change to the Business Regional -1 maximum Floor Area Ratio from 4.0 to 3.0, by replacing the prior requirements with a reference to the Community Benefit regulations for permanently affordable housing. The requirements would apply to any building proposed to be built over a 2.0 Floor Area Ratio in the Business Regional-1 zone.

Upcoming Conversations:

  • Ask your questions about Site Review code changes at our drop-in office hours on Oct. 29. from 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Planning Board will review the draft ordinance on Nov. 18
  • City Council is scheduled to review the draft ordinance on first reading on Dec. 14 and on second reading at a Jan. 18 public hearing.

Restaurants in Public Zones

Restaurants are currently allowed in three city regional parks, including Boulder Reservoir, Flatirons Golf Course and South Valmont City Park.

To support the city’s ability to create spaces for people to eat, gather and celebrate in public spaces, and to fulfill community interests in food and beverage at the parks, City Council will review an ordinance to more clearly allow restaurants at these three regional parks by making them principal uses instead of accessory uses. The proposed code change would modify how the land use code addresses such uses on regional park properties and would continue to not permit restaurants as a principal use outside of regional parks.

Upcoming Conversations:

  • City Council will consider the ordinance on second reading at an Oct. 26 public hearing.