The impact of making significate changes to Boulder’s Zoning Use Table.

City Council is currently considering making significant changes to the city’s Zoning Use Table, which is the instrument used to determine if a given use (office, medical office, retail, industrial etc) is permitted within a particular geographic area and zoning category. The Table has not been updated in several years and certainly deserves to be studied and modified based on the changing environment of our city. 

One of the City Council’s current impetus for amending the Use Table is to create more balance between the number of jobs our City has to offer with the shortage of housing. The theory is that by restricting offices in certain business zones and limiting floor area designated for such use, there will be an incentive for mixed and residential uses.  In layman’s terms, the goal is to reduce the number of jobs and increase the number of residents.  

Such a consequential decision in the direction of our City, our goals and how we plan to achieve those goals should be a process that occurs with great care, as well as with input from our residents, business community and building owners. Unfortunately, City Council is expediting the process in an effort to get this passed prior to the election, thus denying the community and stakeholders time to study the proposed changes, examine the impacts of such changes, and study the real-world effects of those changes. Historically, major decisions like this would follow mailed notice, open houses, and public engagement being given to the community, property owners, and businesses AFTER a staff proposal has been made. This has not occurred. The continued second reading of this ordinance (with no additional public hearing) is scheduled for October 15. 

The first option the staff proposed and City Council considered was limiting office use to 25% of a building within three types of business zoning districts (BT, BMS, and BR). Another option under consideration is a cap on the amount of square footage in a building, that could be used as office space. There are major areas of town affected by these changes, including the central region that includes around Twenty Ninth Street and parts of 28th and 30th Streets. If office limits are approved, a small business (dental office, start-up company, etc.) operating its business in a central business area in Boulder could become a non-conforming use simply for occupying office space. If a business decides it needs to expand, it may not be able to get the approvals or permits necessary from the City to grow into more space within that building. Navigating these major changes could place a huge burden on our businesses, building owners, and City staff. 

An estimated 22,000 parcels in Boulder would be affected by the Use Table changes, with over 1,000 parcels that include offices that would become non-conforming. This is only the number of parcels, not the number of businesses that would be impacted. What does that mean to our small business owners, our employees, our property owners and our community as a whole? The full impact of what that means is unknown, which the City Council and staff have acknowledged. The decision of businesses to grow and expand in a particular building would be very subjective, costly, and time-consuming. 

Given the extent of how many properties and businesses would be impacted by these zoning changes, and the ongoing ambiguity as to how this would play out in the real world- Please join The Colorado Group, Inc. in asking City Council to take their foot off the gas  to allow more time for studying the impacts of these major changes. It’s important to find a solution that takes into consideration the issues of jobs to population balance. 

Jessica Cashmore

Principal/Broker AssociateOct. 15, 2019 – Continuation of City Council Second Reading 

Open comment will be at the beginning of the meeting on Oct. 15, or comments can be emailed to

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