What is the Community Benefit Project?
Community benefit programs typically include a suite of regulations and incentives that tie specific community benefits to requests for additional development rights (like building height, floor area and residential density). These programs identify the specific amount and type of community benefit required with specific development requests.
For example, some properties in Boulder are eligible to request a “Height Modification” to allow an additional one or two stories (up to 55 feet) when the zoning only allows three stories. Boulder’s Community Benefit Project would provide a menu of options – like affordable housing, affordable commercial space, community gathering space and public art – to be provided as part of the project. The specific amount of required benefits would be proportional to the bonus amount requested.
What are the BVCP Policies guiding this project?
1.11 Enhanced Community Benefit: For land use or zoning district changes that result in increases in the density or intensity of development beyond what is permitted by the underlying zoning or for added height that increases intensity, the city will develop regulations and incentives so that the new development provides benefits to the community beyond those otherwise required by the underlying zoning. Any incentives are intended to address the community economic, social and environmental objectives of the comprehensive plan. Community objectives include without limitation affordable housing, affordable commercial space, spaces for the arts, community gathering space, public art, land for parks, open space, environmental protection or restoration, outdoor spaces and other identified social needs and services. Community objectives also may be identified through other planning or policymaking efforts of the city.
2.35 Building Height: The city will review and update site review regulations to provide clear guidance on height and intensity of land uses and to address relationship of building height to aesthetics and view protection. The city will consider additional height (up to the City Charter 55 -foot height limit) as an incentive in exchange for community benefits that further other community objectives such as the provision of permanently affordable housing (as described in Policy 1.11).
7.11 Permanently Affordable Housing for Additional Intensity: The city will develop regulations and policies to ensure that when additional intensity is provided through changes to zoning, a larger proportion of the additional development potential for the residential use will be permanently affordable housing for low, moderate and middle-income households.
What are the Site Review Criteria and how does the Site Review Process work?
Under the current Land Use Code, projects over a certain size in terms of floor area and density (number of units) or upon lots of a certain size are required to be reviewed through the Site Review process. Proposals to build over the zoning district height limit (e.g., 35 feet in most zones, but 38 or 40 feet in others), termed height modifications, also require Site Review. Site Review projects are subject to a public review process (some of the larger projects automatically require Planning Board review, like height modifications for principal structures or requests for additional floor area, density or reduction in open space in a limited number of zones). All Site Review applications are subject to potential call up by Planning Board or citizen appeal. Any Planning Board decisions is subject to City Council call up within a 30-day period.
In order for a Site Review project to be approved the project must be found by the review body (e.g., staff, Planning Board or City Council) to be consistent with the Site Review criteria of Section 9-2-14(h), B.R.C. 1981 , which are lengthy criteria that require compliance with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) policies (on balance) and higher quality development than by-right projects in terms of site design, open space, landscaping, building design and more efficient site layouts and parking configurations etc. The current stated purpose of Site Review is below:
Section 9-2-14(a), B.R.C. 1981- Purpose: The purpose of site review is to allow flexibility and encourage innovation in land use development. Review criteria are established to promote the most appropriate use of land, improve the character and quality of new development, to facilitate the adequate and economical provision of streets and utilities, to preserve the natural and scenic features of open space, to assure consistency with the purposes and policies of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and other adopted plans of the community, to ensure compatibility with existing structures and established districts, to assure that the height of new buildings is in general proportion to the height of existing, approved, and known to be planned or projected buildings in the immediate area, to assure that the project incorporates, through site design, elements which provide for the safety and convenience of the pedestrian, to assure that the project is designed in an environmentally sensitive manner, and to assure that the building is of a bulk appropriate to the area and the amenities provided and of a scale appropriate to pedestrians.
To encourage innovative design, the Site Review process permits modification to some code standards (see list in Section 9-2-14(c), B.R.C. 1981), which can be granted if the Site Review criteria are met. While Site Review projects enable the city a greater ability to achieve some benefits to the community (e.g., affordable housing, residential infill in appropriate locations), there has been a growing sentiment in the community that such projects are not providing benefits commensurate with the additional land use intensity granted through the review process.
How could this affect me or my property?
Potential changes have yet to be determined. While the community benefit portion of the program is voluntary, it is possible that a developer or property owner who intends to enter the Site Review process for a project will be subject to updated Site Review criteria and additional voluntary requirements for Community Benefit if a project is proposed over a zoning district height limit (typically 35 feet) in a fourth or fifth story.